The Twelve Foot Putt


I received a call one day from my colleague and dear friend, Dr. Rick McGuire, from the University of Missouri. It was back in the day when he and I were professors of sport psychology at our prospective schools. I was at KU. He was calling about a young mini tour golfer, Stan Utley, who he had been helping. He felt like I might have additional insight to offer because my specialty was golf. He also was excited because this young man was a believer. That always opens the door to fireworks from heaven.

They came over during the Kansas Open that was being played literally in my back yard and home course. We had a delightful few days together that was anointed. We talked about golf psychology but also about perspective and God. The three of us hit it off. It was clear that God was up to something special. Stan didn’t win the Kansas Open but his take away was this: “I scored much better than I played. This stuff works.”

Two weeks later he received a sponsor’s exemption into a PGA Tour event playing against many of the best players in the world. To say he was a long shot just to make the cut was an understatement. But he came to win. In the end it all came down to a 12-foot putt on the final hole for victory. He made it and in doing so received a dream of a lifetime—a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and all that came with it. It was one of the defining moments of his life and mine as a sport psychologist. To this day he is one of only a handful of players to ever accomplish that feat. In one of his interviews he was asked what he was thinking over the final putt. His answer said it all, “God loves me, my wife loves me, my family loves me. How important could a 12 foot putt be?”

We were all in awe of the timing of God. We were all blessed by the victory. It ultimately gave me the context and framework for my book and movie, Seven Days in Utopia, that I would write and produce years later. It gave Stan the credibility he needed to eventually become one of the leading experts in golf instruction.