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Stewart Cink: Premier Golfer, Christian gentleman, missionary volunteer

 

Stewart Cink is quiet, mild-mannered and amiable, yet obviously acquiring the mental toughness to become a formidable force in the world of professional golf.

Left to right, golfer Stewart Cink, a member of First Baptist Church in Duluth, takes time to pray with Japanese golfer Tommy Nakajima and Christian Pena, an American golfer who plays on the Japanese tour. The trio was taking part in producing a video where each discusses his salvation experience.

The Georgia Tech graduate has recently jumped to No. 10 in Official World Golf Ranking and had a career year in 2004 by leading all PGA golfers with a Tour Putting Average of 1.723 putts per hole. He was also selected to represent the United States in the 2004 Ryder Cup Team.

Cink, his wife Lisa, and their sons, Connor, 9, and Reagan, 5, live in Duluth and are members of First Baptist Church where Dave Parker is pastor.

Recently Cink, accompanied by his caddy, Frank Williams, traveled to Japan with the Duluth pastor to do some mission work. Many Japanese have an intense interest in golf and are well-acquainted with top PGA celebrities. Furthermore, golf is considered a vital part of corporate business life in Japan.

Consequently, the 6-foot-4-inch tall Cink was prepared to use not his physical height, but his stature as a golfer as the platform upon which to share his faith.

 

Preparing for ministry

After the 15-hour flight to Japan, International Board Missionary Bill Walker, who became the facilitator of the missionary venture for the visitors from the U.S. met the weary travelers. Parker commented, “I thought I lived in a large, crowded city, but Tokyo has given me a new sense of the word “HUGE”… and expensive.”

The trip from the Narita International Airport to downtown Tokyo takes about one-and-a-half hours driving at 60 miles an hour through an ocean of humanity. It costs about $60 round-trip in tolls with gas costing $4.80 a gallon.”

After a day of rest from the long journey, Cink spoke to a packed (by reservation only) house at Trader Vick’s Restaurant located in the Otani Hotel in the heart of Toyko. Prominent business executives, known as the International VIP Club Alsaka, were in attendance to hear Cink lecture about golf and share his Christian testimony. He challenged the business leaders to consider Christ as the hope of their hearts.

“Though it took me a few years, the most important lesson I ever learned was that the way to heaven leads directly through Jesus Christ and only through Him,” Cink testifies.

“My relationship with Christ is now the central part of my life. I am a better father to my two boys. I am a better husband to my wife; and I am a better golfer now that the Lord is walking with me in the fairways and through the rough.”

The next day the Duluth “brigade” headed out to a private golf tournament designed for Christians who wanted to invite non-Christian friends to join them in a round. Cink greeted each group of golfers as they came to the third tee, hit a ball with each foursome, gave out gospel tracts to golfers and caddies alike and then shared his testimony with the entire group at the end of the round. This witnessing strategy provided a unique opportunity to reach into a niche of the Japanese culture that has rarely been touched with the gospel.

The next day was Sunday and the American golf pro gave his testimony at two of the four packed out worship services at Tokyo Baptist Church. At the same time Parker was busy preaching; and Williams was engaged in giving his testimony in another church. Williams, Cink’s caddy, though shy by nature, endeared himself to the Japanese with his compelling stories and humorous anecdotes.

In the afternoon, Cink held a golf clinic and gave his testimony to 60-70 service personnel at the local Naval Air base near Tokyo. The commanding officer gave him an up close and personal, standing-on-the-wing view of a FA-18 Hornet. Parker reported, “Stewart was seriously pumped the next morning at breakfast as he gave me and Frank a blow-by-blow account of his Sunday experiences.“

Throughout the course of the days in Japan, a film crew spent considerable time videoing Cink’s visit in the process of preparing a CD-ROM to be used as an evangelistic tool for the Japanese golfing community. Cink, Tommy Nakajima – a prominent Japanese golfer – and Christian Pena – an American from New Mexico who plays on the Japanese tour – were videoed in a nine-hole exhibition and in a one-hour sharing time where each discussed his salvation experience, growth as a disciple, commitment to their families and the basic priorities of their lives.

After several days in Tokyo, Cink and company traveled to Miyazaki, the site of the Dunlop Pheonix Open, the richest golf tournament on the Japanese tour, where Tiger Woods was looking for his first win in Japan. Miyazaki is located two hours from Toyko on a semi-tropical island south of Japan’s mainland.

Stewart Cink didn’t have his best rounds at the Dunlop Phoenix Open, but he accomplished his primary purpose in going to Japan. He got to share his faith in Christ. In an interview Cink declared, “Well, I’ve always relied on my faith real heavily ... I have never been afraid to talk about that with people – whether it’s media, friends, whatever. And I really believe that that’s the rock I have.”

The Georgia Baptist golfer continued, “I’ve been through a lot. Anybody that plays golf out here for a long enough time goes through some ups and downs and I’ve been through both of them. And the one thing I always have with me, whether it’s up or down, is my faith."