Many years ago I served a church where I was the pastor of two professional golfers, PGA golfer Bill Kratzert and his LPGA sister, Cathy Kratzert Gerring. Professional golfers actually don’t spend a lot of time attending church on Sunday mornings and if they are really good at their profession, are often teeing off about the time I am preaching my first sermon of the morning.
Most golf fans of today are more familiar with Billy Kratzert, golf commentator for TNT and ESPN. I have seen his weathered face, wry smile and listened to his informed, yet friendly interviews at the Masters and at the British Open. In fact, I still remember the Saturday afternoon when I was stretched on the couch, sleepily watching a golf match when I was aroused from my slumber by the sound of his slight southern drawl. The last time I had contact with Billy he was moving to Florida to prepare for a shift from the PGA Tour to the Senior (now Champions) Tour. It made sense to me. He was an excellent golfer, winning a million dollars in the days before the Fed Ex Cup and flirting into day three with the lead at the Masters (he ultimately finished 5th). But few people really understood golf–the game, its culture, its history, and his opponents as well as Billy.
Once I took a vacation to work at the Greater Greensboro Open. Billy was playing there during a time when his career was having some challenges. Because they had more volunteers than needed, I was freed after the Pro-Am Day on Wednesday just to enjoy the tournament; so I followed Billy. He was doing well that week and made the cut for Sunday, and he invited me to dinner Saturday night. I started to decline as I thought he would want to be free to prepare for that important final day. He insisted and so I met him for dinner at the MCL Cafeteria (Billy was not a big spender).
What impressed me, however, is who we joined in the cafeteria. I anticipated Fuzzy Zoeller and other convivial pros. We ate with the caddies. We ate with the caddies and Billy spent much of the meal talking with them, listening to their insights, learning more about the game and his competitors. It gave me a whole new perspective on Billy and also on a true professional.
True professionals are good at what they do because they are constantly learning, and humble enough to learn from everyone. They understand the wisdom of the little guy, the man on the line, the administrative assistant. They value them as persons and actually encourage those persons to participate in the leader’s success by sharing their ideas and insights.
Approachability, listening, appreciation- the mark of an effective professional and of a successful leader. Thanks, Billy, for that life lesson to a young preacher.