Let’s get this straight from the start: The golfers on the senior tours for the over-50s in America and Europe are not a bunch of geriatrics hacking the ball around.
Golf lends itself to longevity and a player of 50 can still be extremely competitive. Yes, you may lose a bit of power off the tee but this game is also about finesse and touch and confidence and precision and skilful shotmaking and these
attributes don’t suddenly disappear once you turn 50.
Never mind just 50, though, because there’s also the amazing, age-defying, God-fearing Bernhard Langer. The German turns 62 this August but, genuinely, is still one of the world’s best golfers.
In a brilliant display, he reminded us of this this past Sunday at Royal Lytham in England when he won his fourth Senior Open and his 11th Senior Major.
In miserable, cold, wet and windy weather on this fearsome Lancashire links he closed with a 66 for six-under-par 274 to win by two from Paul Broadhurst with South Africa’s own Retief Goosen sharing third one shot further back.
To put this performance into perspective: Langer’s aggregate is just one worse than the 273 scored by swashbuckling Seve Ballesteros when the great Spaniard, 31 at the time, won the 1988 Open Championship on this self-same course.
Up until not too long ago, Gary Player had the record of the most Senior Majors, which was nine (matching his nine regular Majors). Now Langer has his 11, including a Grand Slam of all five Senior Majors, and he doesn’t look like slowing down.
He’s hitting the ball further than he did 20 years ago. Okay, equipment may have something to do with this. But the fact remains he is golf’s miracle man.
The German finished his regular tour career with an astonishing 42 European Tour wins. Now, after Lytham, he has no less than 40 senior tour victories in the bag. Talk about German precision, Langer has it in bucketloads
on the golf course.
Langer twice won the American Masters, the first of the four Majors held each year, in 1985 and 1993 but this isn’t only a golf story.
Refuge and strength
As many know, he is a devout Christian and after last Sunday’s win he quoted a Bible verse in a post-round interview: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” He then exclaimed, with a
smile, that he actually needed that reassurance to cope with Lytham’s treacherous and troublesome bunkers!
Bernhard was brought up Catholic and sent to Sunday School as a young boy but, even so, he had little idea what it meant to be a Christian.
In fact in 1985, after his first Masters victory at Augusta National , he was interviewed – as is the tradition for the champion – in the Butler Cabin at the Augusta National golf course where the Masters is always held.
“During the interview,” he later recalled, “I took the Lord’s name in vain. Two days later I became a born-again Christian. So I always regretted my comment in 1985, and in 1993, after my second Masters win, I got my chance to try and make amends.
“I was asked by the interviewer how it felt to win a second time, and I said, ‘It’s always very special to win the greatest tournament in the world, especially on Easter Sunday, when my Lord was resurrected.’
“I realise many people dislike hearing a religious note from athletes, and most aren’t sure exactly why. But my faith is the most important facet of my life, and I will never change.”
Just two days after his 1985 Masters victory Langer was taken to a Bible study meeting by fellow golfer Bobby Clampett. There, golfing minister Larry Moody showed him a verse from the Bible. In John 3.3, it says: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Casting his mind back to the encounter 30 years ago, Langer says: “I’d gone to church for 27 years or something, but this was different – I liked it more the way it was explained. It quickly became clear what was missing in my life. I
didn’t have a personal relationship with God or Jesus Christ.
Part of his life
“Once I made the decision, it became a huge part of my life: how I treat people, how I look at the world, how I look at politics. It affected everything. We’re so involved with the here and now we have for 70, 80 or 90 years when it’s all about the eternal ranks. Our life is just a fleeting moment compared to eternity.”
Golf has been such an important part of Bernhard Langer’s life and he is as competitive as ever. “But it’s not the most important thing,” insists the man who has been married to Vikki for 35 years and the couple have four children.
“The most important things in this world are my relationship with God and my relationship with other believers
and my family. These are the relationships that will last forever.”