Young Life Makes the PGA

Golf enthusiasts may have noticed that the PGA Tour has two very big fans of Young Life. Two-time U.S. Open winner Lee Janzen and Don Pooley, who won the U.S. Senior Open in 2002, have both sported the Young Life logo while competing this year because they love what the mission does, and they’ve also seen God work through Young Life in their own lives.

Lee Janzen

Growing up, Lee Janzen remembers spending a lot of time at church. But soon golf was the priority, and by high school, “I was consumed with golf,” Janzen said.

After a college golf career, he joined the PGA Tour in 1989, and since then has won eight tournaments, including two U.S. Opens in 1993 and 1998, and the Players Championship in 1995.

But Janzen’s faith foundation didn’t go to waste, and in the mid-1990s, his life with Christ reached a turning point. “The question of how good do I have to be kept gnawing at me. Am I in or am I out? I finally really understood the Gospel and now there’s not a doubt in my mind.”

Janzen is excited that Young Life is helping his son and other kids in their community to build a spiritual foundation of their own. When his son attended club the first time, the impact it made on him seemed almost immediate, Janzen said.

“It only took one time and he was really into it,” Janzen said, “It’s made an immense difference in his life.” Since then, the Janzens have also hosted Young Life club in their home. “The Janzens are very supportive parents and strong followers of Christ,” said Southwest Orlando Area Director Shannon Watlington. “It’s a great blessing to have their support and encouragement.”

The Janzens simply love what Young Life does for kids. “We watched how Young Life accepts everyone,” Janzen said. “Teenagers are so self-conscious, but Young Life goes out of their way to make sure everyone is accepted.”

That’s what Janzen said he loves most about Young Life. Because even he, as a successful professional golfer, has learned that being impressive won’t give anyone the acceptance or fulfillment they’re really after.

“I’ve tried to win to impress God. I realized that there’s no way to impress Him. He wants my heart, not my scores.”

Don Pooley

Pooley teed off with Young Life as a high school sophomore in Riverside, Calif., going with his friends on a weekend retreat. The weekend was a blast, Pooley said, yet when it came time for the optional Sunday morning worship service, “I was going to opt out of that one.”

Thankfully, Pooley’s friends didn’t take no for an answer, and that morning marked the first day of Pooley’s new life as a follower of Jesus Christ.

“The speaker was talking about God in a way I had never heard before,” Pooley said. “I realized it was not enough to just be good. That morning, everything changed. I felt absolutely elated. It was certainly the best decision I ever made.”

It’s a decision, he said, that has kept him grounded amid some great successes since going pro in 1973, including winning the B.C. Open in 1980, the 1985 Vardon Trophy, the 1987 Memorial Tournament and making a million-dollar hole-in-one at the 1987 Bay Hill Classic.

Over the years, Pooley has generously given back to Young Life in a variety of ways.

“Don Pooley, and his brother Dave, have been anchors to Young Life Tucson for more than 20 years,” said Marty Caldwell, vice president of Young Life’s International South Division. “Don helped with some Young Life golf camps in the mid-’80s and he has been a part of the founding group of funders helping Lost Canyon get built. He serves with humility and confidence, always reminding staff and leaders about walking worthy with Christ.”

For Pooley, loving Young Life is easy. “They’ll be with anybody. Young Life befriends them all. God’s done a wonderful thing through Young Life. It’s my favorite organization for kids. I will be a supporter for the rest of my life.”

So whether we walk world-class fairways or high school hallways, both golfers remind us that our most important fan is cheering for us from the heavenly stands.