Plantation Devotional - Jerry Vinzetta

Apr 15 2014

jvinzettaThis morning I would like to begin by asking you, “Do you know what percentage of golf courses are in America as compared to the rest of the world?” Some of you say 40%, 35%, 55%. The percent is 50% of all the golf courses in the world are right here in the good Ole USA. Guess what percentage is in second place? 8% and that is in the UK, 7% in Japan, 7% in Canada, 4% in Australia, 2% in Germany and so on. As you can see, second place is not even close. Well, in 2000 over 30 million played golf in American and 20% of them were women. Since then would you say the play of golf has increased or decreased? Well, let’s look at the facts.

Over the past decade, the leisure activity most closely associated with corporate success in American has been in a kind of recession. The total number of people who play golf has declined or remained flat each year since 2,000, dropping to about 26 million from 30 million according to the National Golf Foundation and The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. That is a decline of 13%, guys.

More troubling to golf boosters, the number of people who play 25 times a year or more fell to 4.5 million in 2005 from 6.9 million in 2000, a loss of 33%. That has been the average member in the USCGA. Again, it is a drop of 33%. Now, the industry counts it’s core players as those who golf 8+ more times a year. Guys, that is now our core group to reach out to. That number also has fallen but more slowly to 15 million in 2006 from 17.7 million in 2000, according to the National Golf Foundation. That is a decline of 14.29%. Members, these percentages are very close to the decline of our members in the USCGA since 2006.

The disappearance of golfers over the past several years is part of a broader decline in outdoor activities, including tennis, swimming, hiking, biking and downhill skiing, according to a number of academic and recreation industry studies. Jim Kass, the research director of the National Golf Foundation said the gradual but prolonged slump in golf has defied the adage, “Once a golfer, always a golfer.” About three million golfers quit playing each year, and slightly fewer than that have been picking it up. A two year campaign by the foundation to bring new players into the game, he said, “hasn’t shown much in the way of results.”

In many parts of the country, high expectations for a golf bonanza paralleling baby boomer retirements led to what is now considered a vast overbuilding of golf courses. Between 1990 and 2003, developers built more than 3,000 new golf courses in the US bringing the total to about 16,000. Several hundred have closed in the last few years, most of those in Arizona, Florida, Michigan and South Carolina, according to the foundation. Scores more courses are listed for sale on the website of The National Golf Course Owners Association. We have seen in the Mid South Holiday Golf Club, BigCreek, T. O. Fuller, Ross Creek, Chickasaw, Falcon Ridge, and Shiloh Falls go under and more are up for sale such as Plantation Golf Course that we are playing today. Guys, we can’t change these facts, but one thing we can do is reach out to that core group of 8+ players through our fellowship.

The Board has also been concerned by the average drop in our membership in recent years so last year we formed a core group of members who have been with us for 7 or more years called The Focus Group. We asked many questions on how we might improve our ministry to try and regain our momentum of the past. However what we really wanted to know was...“Why have you stayed with the USCGA for 7 or more years?” There were several good comments, but the #1 reason by far given was FELLOWSHIP!

Reaching golfers for Christ and encouraging each other through our Christian Fellowship has been our core reason for existence. Remember our vision to establish chapters in every major city for the cause of Christ and bringing a loving outreachfellowship to many has not changed. We have something in the USCGA that no one has in Memphis or nowhere else in the country. You are the backbone of this ministry and without you there is no ministry. Many of our members have gone to be with the Lord and even 3 of our precious wives this last year have passed into the loving arms of our Lord and Savior. The USCGA has ministered to them and their loved ones through our fellowship. How many golf leagues do you know have a ministry to encourage its member like the USCGA? I am proud to be a member of this ministry and thank God we have each other and our churches to encourage us in our joy and our time of need.

Remember, we are brothers and sisters in Christ and we have a message, and it is not about golf, it’s about the love of Jesus Christ and salvation through Him. Remember our slogan, “It’s not just golf.”

So as Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Your words of encouragement and how you portray the USCGA to each other and potential members mean everything. So let’s take a walk into the past and see how the power of words changed the world.

Who said, “Ask not what your country can do for your but what you can do for your country.”? – John F Kennedy

Oh, how we need to hear those words again. Today, it’s all about what the government can do for you rather than what you can do for your country. Ronald Reagan was known as what? That’s right – The Great Communicator. Let’s take a look at some of his humor and sincere statements that change the direction America and the rest of the world.

He said:

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Reminds me of another wall I remember that came down.

“We don’t have a trillion dollar debt because we haven’t taxed enough, we have a trillion dollar debt because we spend too much!   Somebody say Amen!

How about this one. “The nine most terrifing words in the English Language are, “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help.”  

Today our bureaucracy and government have invaded every facet of our lives. “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few phrases! If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Question – Has your taxes of late increased? "

Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the US was too strong.” Washington needs to hear this.

“Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.” 

What else can I say?

When Reagan ran for his first term in office, he poked fun at Jimmy Carter and said, “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And a recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.” And some of his more humorous remarks were, “Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.’ And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.” 

Last but not least, as I look out over this illustrious group this morning, I see Jack Tidwell sitting there and he reminds me of what Reagan said about Hippies. “A Hippie is someone who looks like Tarzan, walks like Jane, and smells like Cheetah.” Only Joking Jack, only joking.

Well, now see the words of another great person who God used to save a nation – Winston Churchill. When Great Britain was being hammered by Nazi bombs every night for over a year and the city of London was in turmoil, it was Winston Churchill who rallied the British people to stand up to Hitler and never give up.

He said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood for something. Something in your life.”

My friends, you will not go through this life as a faithful believer sharing the love of Christ without enemies. “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” He was also not without humor. Lady Astor said to him, “Winston, if I were your wife I’d put poison in your coffee.” Churchill replied, “Nancy, if I were your husband, I’d drink it.” And here is one with a little common sense. “We contend that for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”

In closing Winston said the following: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal! It is the courage to continue that counts.” And “Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in.” See, death and life are in the power of words and what you say matters a great deal about the ministry of the USCGA. Question, “What is the typical response you get when you share about the USCGA to a typical golfing friend? The #1 answer is “I’m not that good.” Another question, as a percentage how many golfers do you think play the game by the rules? If it’s more than 5%, I would be shocked. That means the overwhelming number of golfers are the 8+ core group who do not play by the rules. And these are intimidated by playing in a “league of golfers” who must be good who play by the rules so in their minds, “They are not good enough.” When they say that, you can tell them that we have golfers of all skill levels. Each golfer, member, is placed in a group of golfers within their own skill level and will play golf in a flight that makes it fun to compete for gift certificates and awards. If they say, “I don’t play by the rules.” Chances are they don’t know how to play by the rules. Here is where you tell them if they don’t want to play by the rules, they don’t have to as a guest. In fact, they don’t even have to join. Invite them to come and enjoy our fellowship. If they never join or want to play by the rules that’s OK. The point is this. “It’s not about golf”, it is about the Lord Jesus Christ and our fellowship of the USCGA but I’m going to ask you this morning to pay another price. Give the game to the Lord Jesus Christ! If you have given your life to Jesus Christ and are truly a born again Christian, then there is nothing in your life that does not belong to Him ... including playing golf. I’m asking you today to give the game of golf over to the Lord and let Him show you how playing this silly game we play become a lifestyle to bring golfers to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. We call this lifestyle evangelism. You won’t necessarily play the game better, but the game will become much more meaningful and enjoyable.

As we have seen in the words of great men, and the words you can use to bring others to Christ through the game of golf, I want to close with the words of Jesus. He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Luke 10:2 ESV
Members, many play this game so the harvest is plentiful. Go out there and bring them to Jesus Christ through the USCGA. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 ESV
Let me ask you, have you repented of your sins and asked God to forgive you and given your life to Jesus Christ? You can do that right now.
“Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

Is there anything in this scripture that limits,
“In all your ways acknowledge Him?”

In Him,
Jerry Vinzetta

References
The Forty Greatest Quotes, John Hawkins
By Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan,
Townhall.com, April 4, 2014.

The National Golf Foundation, Paul Vitello
More Americans are Giving Up Golf
The New York Times, Feb. 1, 2008.

The English Standard Version Bible, 2008.