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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 8, 2010

Golf ministries play through beyond pew

 •  Day of Prayer challenged

By Ron Orozco
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

FRESNO, Calif. Churches and faith groups are connecting with the public through sport.

In some areas, golf ministries give people a way to have fun and build fellowship while learning more about their churches or about faith-based charities.

"Just about anyone can play golf," says Dennis Hammond, president of the Christian Golf Club of Central California. The club's monthly tournaments raise money for faith-based organizations. This year, proceeds are going to the Evangel Home, a Christian group helping women and children.

"You don't have to be a gifted athlete to play golf," Hammond says. "All ages play, youngsters to grandparents in their 90s. You don't have to be a good player to have fun."

Golf ministries sometimes translate into new members, volunteers and donations. But they say they are mainly interested in helping people.

In the spring and summer, when the weather is best for golf, there are ministry events nearly every day in California's Central Valley.

On a recent Thursday, Fresno/Madera Youth for Christ held its annual tournament 110 golfers played through an afternoon drizzle at a country club.

Afterward, everyone gathered in the club's banquet room, where Youth for Christ's executive director, Ed Kaczmarek, gave a presentation on how the organization helps needy kids and how donors can help.

"Golf reaches those who are business owners and community leaders and it's a great group to reach," Kaczmarek says. "There's good camaraderie, good fellowship on the golf course.

"When you have a good day of golf, it lifts up your organization. There's a levity that brings warm fuzzies around your organization."

Clovis Hills Community Church has a Twilight Golf League ministry, which holds four-person scramble events at Eagle Springs Golf and Country Club.

The ministry is designed for church members and nonmembers men and women to get to know each other outside of church.

"We know church can be intimidating for people who have never gone," says the Rev. Dave Love, a Clovis Hills associate pastor. "So many people have gone to church and had a bad experience. So we just try to lessen the stereotype that people tend to have."

The ministry's organizer, Rod Gleghorn, says he tries to tell others there how they can get involved in church ministries.

"If you just go on Sundays, you just sit in the pews and don't get to know others," he says.

Richard Lee, who plays in the Clovis Hills league with his wife, Mickey, says he tries to listen on the course, hoping to zero in on people's needs. The Lees coordinate the church's Crown financial ministry, which trains people to apply what it sees as biblical principles in money management.

"When you have a ministry, golf is another avenue for how you can meet other people," he says. "It is an outlet that is safe for everybody.

"You ask, 'What can we do to help you out?' You can't do that if you don't meet people."