Young pro golfer looks to give God glory in wins & losses

by Joni B. Hannigan, Editorial Staff |

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (Christian Examiner) -- For professional golfer Ian Davis, playing at TPC Scottsdale is something to which he still aspires, but the most important aspect of the game to him is that God is given glory consistently in every round, whether the young golfer makes it on the green or gets buried in the bunkers.

It's an attitude the 23-year-old who turned pro last May after graduating from Oklahoma State learned early on from his father who taught him to love Jesus and family first -- and then golf.

A small -- less than 2-foot tall -- "cut down" 7-iron golf club in the corner of Ian's bedroom is special to the young man whose father was his first coach. It was a step up from the plastic golf clubs he received as an infant.

"That was my first real club and I'd take that into the yard," Ian said. "I've been playing since I could walk and was old enough to carry a club."

Ian said his father, who is on staff now at Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, would take him along to city golf courses when he played golf, and let the toddler ride along in the cart -- and strike a few balls.

Like many young people, Ian said he grew up in church learning about God. When he was nine and his family was living in Alabama, he asked Jesus Christ to be his Savior.

That's about the same time he got his first real set of golf clubs.

"We were doing my birthday in the kitchen with all the presents and everything and my dad set out the golf bag full of the clubs and I came around the corner and I saw them," Ian said. "That was pretty special."

Since Ian's dad was a minister, the family moved around some – but Ian always had a dream of moving back to Oklahoma. He got his dream when he father accepted a ministry position in Oklahoma when Ian started high school.

From then Ian said he started "pursuing God" with a new intensity, and also started to focus on golf as a potential future career.

"That's what my passion was and that's what the Lord was leading me to do – to be the best in that area," Ian said.

As a golf standout, Ian was recruited by several Oklahoma colleges including Oklahoma State University (OSU) whose head coach Mike McGraw is listed by ESPN The Magazine as one of the top 20 recruiters in any sport.

"One of the things I learned through that whole process in my faith was to see where the Lord wanted me to be throughout college," Ian said.

Calling McGraw a "very strong Christian man," Ian said it was his coach who mentored him throughout his college years, and held Bible studies in his home. "It's comforting to know your coach you spend every day throughout college with is in your corner and leading you not only golf wise, but spiritually with the Lord."

It wasn't the same for the members of his golf team, however. When he got to OSU, Ian discovered he was the lone believer on the team and the only one who spent time daily reading his Bible and praying – usually before anyone else was up.

"I was trying to live out my life in the midst of hanging out with all of these guys and fortunately I had opportunities to share with them my story," Ian said. "Some didn't know anything about Christianity."

Ian changed that. One of the friends he invited home to his parent's house began reading through a Bible and accepted Christ on Christmas day two years ago.

"I had been praying for him for a long time and that was pretty cool," Ian said.

An organization called College Golf Fellowship helped Ian keep his focus. Connected with PGA Tour partners like Ben Crane and Davis Love III, Ian spent valuable time in weekly Bible studies and during summer retreats learning Biblical principles and being discipled.

Ian Davis/Twitter

And while he deepened his spiritual walk in college, he also gained valuable insight from Doug Tewell, an OSU alum and winner of eight PGA Tours tournaments.

The seasoned champion taught Ian to "give God the glory and the credit" at the beginning of each round of golf – and to be consistent throughout the day.

"I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for getting me through the day," Ian said is a prayer he often verbalizes to fans and media. And he prays for peace on the golf course.

"Without my faith, I wouldn't have been able to do it," he says of any success he's encountered. "There are so many ups and downs, but the only thing that stays constant and true is the Lord and He's going to be there for you."

At a recent tournament with 300-400 people watching, Ian said he felt a peace that defied understanding as he got ready to hit his ball.

"Everything that I've done and every success or win that I've had it's not me and it's not really about me," he said. "It's all to bring glory and honor to the Lord -- whether I win or come in last place.

"And if you have that vision of whether you play bad or good, Christ is still going to love you; your family and friends are still going to love you, it's a special feeling," Ian remembered.

Relaxing with his family just before the New Year, Ian said he might join the Latin America PGA Tour in the spring, take the summer off and have a fall series.

That is when he's not squeezing in time for play on public courses with his dad whose been perfecting his stroke. "I don't give him too much of a hard time," Ian said of his father who recently asked him to not laugh at him. "Probably when I was in high school was the last time he beat me at golf."

It's clear to see how much love Ian has for his father who taught him not only to love golf, but to Love Jesus and to walk in the faith. And that pretty special club in Ian's room is now over two decades old and neither of his younger brothers has claimed golf with the same passion as him.

With a dream to play one day at Augusta -- and tee it up at the Waste Management Phoenix Open -- Ian is content to wait and see what God has for the future.