After months and months of planning and coordinating and working, the week had arrived for the 2014 U.S. Men's Open being conducted at Pinehurst #2 and, our Open Doors for the Open outreach from the Village Chapel on the Square in the Village of Pinehurst.
The first day of play was complete amongst all of the hype that accompanies a championship of this calibre. The Coore and Crenshaw radical redesign of the course, the recognition of the Payne Stewart memorial, the play of Kaymer and the failure of the rest of the field to match his stellar play were the focus of the media and the crowds. But, our attention was upon something else and it was difficult for me, personally, to be patient as we were not able to be in the Village on Thursday, but, after working in Murfreesboro, TN that morning and hitting the road around 2:30 PM we had a 500 mile ride to the US Open for the third time in the last four weeks. Thankfully, this time, the ride was uneventful except the settling in between Scott and me as we had never been in such close quarters for 9 hours before.
Scott Bennett is my best friend. The story surrounding our becoming Brothers in Christ and friends forever is a very deep and devine encounter that is enough for us to refer to in remembrance, especially when we begin to grate upon each other. He's a prize, really, and I so much appreciate his friendship and faithfulness to the vision of Open Doors. Thank you, Brother Scott.
Arriving late in the evening that Thursday of the first day of the Open after that long drive from Tennessee was very tiring, but, it was entertaining as we had been texting the boys from Warren Baptist Church and the Warren Golf Association from Augusta, GA all along. I didn't, really, know these guys at all, but, I had heard of Shane Pangle from our mutual friend, Wally Armstrong, and reached out to him the day following the 2014 Masters to introduce him to Open Doors. He jumped right on the concept and, eventually, committed to visiting the Open to get a flavor for how the concept could be implemented during the 2015 Masters. He brought three other Brothers with him; Jim SeCrest, Al and Matt. They were traveling the same day and we were communicating with them by text most of the day. At one point, Jim introduced himself to me by text for the first time and I was glad to make his acquaintance. I thought he was the same fella through whom Bobby Clampett and I had arranged the Masters breakfast back in 1995, but, I wasn't sure. At one point Jim and I had a funny "texting" interchange where Jim messaged me that they were excited about arriving and visiting with us in Pinehurst, but, the next text said they had stopped for dinner at a steakhouse and would be there for a short while. He ended the text with; "I love you.". I thought this was a bit strange for just being introduced to him, but, what the heck, a Brother that really gets it; we are one in Christ. I responded with an; "I love you, too, Brother". His quick response was; "That was meant for my wife." We had quite a chuckle about that around midnight when we were all together in the Village Chapel Care Cottage.
So this was the scene when we arrived late on the Thursday night after the first round of the 2014 US Open. We were all in the cottage; Shane Pangle, Jim SeCrest, Matt, Al, Scott and Ron Wilcoxson, my dear friend, doctor of pastoral studies, author and former PGA Touring Pro who had lived in Murfreesboro, but, now, was pastoring a Baptist church in Pensacola, FL. We also had Bobby McIver, golf coach to Scott Verplank and others and, now, author of the book, "The Heart of the Game", but, he was asleep upstairs and we didn't bother him until later that next morning. We agreed that we would convene again at 7:30 AM on Friday for a devotional, discussions about the venue for the Outreach and discuss our agenda for the day. We hit the sack a bit after 12 PM, just glad to, finally be safe, in Pinehurst for the Open and in a reasonably comfortable bed.
My alarm went off as usual at 4 a.m. which was 3 a.m. Central time, because we had lost an hour when we crossed the timeline around Crossville, TN. This is my normal routine; getting up at 4 AM, one which, I believe, the Lord provided for me, my, Circadian Rythm cycle, where I just can't sleep past 4 or 4:30 a.m. But this day was extremely special as I had been promoted to jump up and spend whatever time it took that morning to walk throughout the Village and pray. This is not my normal shtick. I have not been one of those neighborhood prayer warriors like some of my church members in Murfreesboro. That ministerial approach was never inspired in me, but, for the past several weeks, the Lord had been prompting me to walk around the Village of Pinehurst and pray. The first time I was able to do that was a few weeks before the Open when I had driven down myself to visit with Jimmy Schneider, coordinate final preparations and complete the picture in my mind of what the Outreach was going to look like and how it would operate. On that day, I was also inspired to travel (by car that time) within the Village on a Sunday morning. I just rolled around the Village, street by street, and called upon the Lord in prayer for His presence and His providence upon everything I came in contact with. It was amazing and I hope to expand upon that in a future posting, but, for the purposes of this post, the Lord empowered me to jump up, put on my shorts, tee shirt and flip-flops and I was out of the door at 4:15 AM at the latest, just hobbling about the Village from 55 Community Road throughout the Village, the outside of the Pinehurst #2 area and the surrounding streets.
It was pitch dark that morning at 4:30 AM, duh!! It was a strange environment, but, lovely as the temp was about 70 degrees and clear as a bell. I wasn't sure how odd I looked, and, really, I didn't care, but, one of the wonderful things that validated this effort came as I walked down the parking area behind the Chapel about 4:45 AM and saw movement from the corner of my eye near the back entrance at the walkway. I was hesitant to approach this person. I thought it might be Jimmy Schneider, but, I sauntered over toward the person that, as I got closer, I recognized as a young man dressed in the "uniform" of one of the MC Foundation youth working for the food vendor during the Open.
He was startled as I approached and pulled back a bit when I reached out with my hand to shake his and asked him how he was and what he was doing. "I am just praying." he said, "Praying for my friends and our work here." I was ecstatic!! I couldn't believe this. Here I was out on the streets of Pinehurst Village at this "Godly" time in the morning and I encounter a young man also praying. It was amazing to me!
"Do you mind if I join you?" I asked. Somewhat reluctantly, he agreed and I sat down on the step near him and offered up my prayer to the Father. Once again, I prayed for the Village, the day, the Open, the Players, the media, the visitors, the team and for His providence to prevail during that day at the U.S. Open. He prayed for his friends, their work, the supervisors, the day, his family, his fiancee' and for his future. It was incredibly awesome. I reached out my hand again and looked him in the eye and reassured him that the Lord was with him and his future. I thanked him for praying with me and, again, praised the Lord for our meeting at that time, in that place, for His purposes. I was newly invigorated to continue my trek throughout the Village to pray as the Lord was leading me.