Want to have maximum impact? Use the talent God has given you!
As he bends down to replace a ball on a tee for a young African girl, Wally pauses a moment to reflect on how he ended up in Africa, introducing this young girl to the game of golf. He asks her if she’s ever heard of Tiger Woods. The bewildered look on her face signals the fact that she hasn’t. Wally chuckles and realizes how far he is from home. His career started half a world and half a lifetime away.
Golf Was His Life
In the 1970’s and 80’s, Wally Armstrong competed with the elite of the professional golfing circuit with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Gary Player. He held the PGA record for the lowest score in the Masters by a rookie for over 22 years. He’s played in over 300 PGA Tour events, including two Masters Tournaments, and is a lifetime member of the PGA. Golf was certainly a passion for him, and he reached the peak of his profession.
As his career as a professional golfer began to reach its twilight, Wally began to assemble some of the techniques and tips that he’d developed over the years, and put them into instructional tools to help others hone their golf skills. Wally utilized instructional aids that were standard household items, such as tennis balls, broom sticks, hangers and hula hoops, to demonstrate the proper form and technique required to hit a golf ball consistently. The props were especially useful when instructing kids.
Wally went on to produce some of the largest selling instructional golf videos ever made, and his unique methods and creative training aides were featured in numerous golf magazines. He conducted clinics and wrote instructional books to help educate people on the game he loved. Could life be any better?
"For the first time the emptiness that he felt was replaced by a Savior that he knew would never leave or forsake him."
Throughout his life, Wally was driven to perfection as a means of acceptance. The more time, effort and determination that he invested in a particular area of his life or professional pursuit, the more likely he was to be accepted and validated by his peers. Wally even applied this performance-driven approach to his relationship with God. Unfortunately, the result of trying to earn God’s acceptance led to exhaustion and disappointment. He could never measure up to the expectations he felt God had laid out for him to achieve.
Finding a New Purpose
It wasn’t until 1997 that Wally had the breakthrough in his life that had been eluding him for over three decades. He took his faith to a new level by making a deliberate effort to develop a more personal relationship with Jesus. Through that process, he came to the realization that God’s love is unconditional and never changes. The burden he had been carrying of trying to be “good enough” for God had been lifted, and he felt a freedom that he’d never experienced before.
The void that Wally was unable to fill on his own was suddenly replaced with a passion to proclaim the good news about Jesus Christ. What better way to do that than to use the gifts and skills that he mastered on the golf course? He co-authored a few faith-based books, such as In His Grip: Foundations for Life & Golf and The Heart of a Golfer, and began to formulate some ideas on how to convey the message about Jesus Christ in a simple way to which anyone could relate.
It all came together in 2007 when his book The Mulligan: A Parable of Second Chances was produced. In the book, Wally uses the story of an avid golfer whose life lacked purpose and direction. While at a golf event, he meets a wise old pro at the clubhouse. As the pro begins to help straighten out and improve the man’s golf game, it becomes a metaphor for straightening the man’s life. The pro explains to him that we all fall short of the perfect game in life, and we all need a mulligan. Wally explains that Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can use the mulligan He provides us.
The book was a great success, selling over fifty thousand copies worldwide. Bible studies soon started forming at golf clubhouses, with eager participants discussing the book and relating it to God’s word. A study guide was developed to help leaders and participants work through the topics the book covered. As word of the book quickly spread, Wally began receiving email after email describing the testimonies of lives that were changed through their experiences with The Mulligan.
In many cases, a single copy of The Mulligan would be read by one person and then passed on and on to others. Sometimes a single book would literally travel around the world. Wally was amazed and humbled at the story of one such copy that went from a reader in the United States to a friend in Ireland, who passed it on to a friend in Japan, making a lasting impact each step of the way.
The success of The Mulligan prompted Wally to start hosting events, such as the Mulligan Open. These golf outings provide a great, nonthreatening way for fellow believers to invite nonbelievers for a day of golf, followed by a dinner and prayer breakfast the following morning. Wally is able to meet the participants firsthand and offer some of his wisdom on golf, life and faith. He conducts these types of events around the country and around the globe. He encourages people to use the gifts and talents that God has given them to fulfill the purpose that He has for them, right where they are.
"As interest continued to grow, Wally realized that there needed to be a way to connect people who had a shared interest in reaching people for Christ within the golf community."
The Mulligan Golf Club was formed as a means of linking individuals and groups together to pool their resources and share ideas. The web site, mulligangolfclub.com is full of information about event organization, inspirational stories from participants, multimedia tools and networking sources to reach people around the globe, as well as social media links as a means of communication.
Passion Meets Purpose
Wally’s latest project is a new book called Practicing the Presence of Jesus. He describes his struggles with being a performance driven Christian, trying to earn God’s love and acceptance. He discovers that all Jesus wants is a relationship with each one of us, one not unlike that of an earthly friend, who knows all of our faults and failures, but loves and accepts us anyway. It builds upon the foundational principles described in The Mulligan and encourages readers to overcome any doubts or fears of having that type of relationship with Jesus.
When most people reach Wally’s age, they eagerly look forward to retirement and enjoying a life of leisure. Not Wally. He is just now coming into full stride. He is working more now than ever, and loving every minute of it, especially when he gets to introduce a young child to the game that is so much a part of who he is. The difference is that now he doesn’t try to do it all on his own, but with the strength and guidance given to him from his friend and companion Jesus Christ. “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13