Pro Golfer, Kevin Streelman took time away from the PGA Tour to chat about his fondest moments, his journey to the top and how much God is at work in his putter!
So Kevin let’s start with where you are right now, how hectic is the competitive calendar?
The schedule is pretty steady, at least January through to mid-November. Basically, from Thanksgiving to January I probably have six to seven weeks off and that is my off-season. I live in Scottsdale, Arizona where the weather is just beautiful that time of year so we enjoy being home. Come mid-January I will normally do the west coast swing and play five out of six events. I am at the start of my tenth season now and it has gone so fast, as all our lives do. I just feel blessed and very fortunate to use this platform to glorify God and it is amazing that the more upfront we put Christ in our lives, all other things just take care of themselves. My daily and weekly battle is just to put him first and just see what happens because he can wow us when we allow him to.
At what point did you think as an amateur golfer, I could make it pro here?
I graduated from Duke in 2001 and basically didn’t want to get a real job, I was good at golf but I was not good enough to make it on the PGA tour. Actually in my first run at Q school, our qualifying tournament I missed the final stage by one shot and I remember leaving the last putt about two inches short. I was so distraught in that moment but looking back I was not prepared to be there and there was a reason that God stuck his foot out and stopped that putt.
I had some serious growing to do in many areas of my life and what would follow would be six and a half years of very trying, lonely and discouraging moments where I drove 350,000 miles by myself, getting to tournaments and just living out of my car. Those times made me mentally tough to not only accept failures along with successes but to also become pretty good at accepting surrender. The better we can get at surrendering the outcome to God, the more he can wow us in those moments. However we try and hold on so tight which doesn’t give us freedom and at the end of it all I just want to do is live in freedom. It’s his promise so clearly in the bible.
Could you tell us how you came to know God for yourself?
I grew up in a very Christian home, Illinois is kind of the bible belt of the mid-west. I was born in November and then was baby Jesus in a Christmas play at only a month or so old. So I just grew up in a church but really took a step away at high school and then college, golf and my results became really important to me, chasing girls became really important me. Christ went down on the ladder of importance and I really felt lost for some time. It was only when I met Courtney, this book was given to me six times and on the sixth I thought I guess I must read it. It was called ‘Golf’s Sacred Journey’ by Dr David Cook and it is a story of a mini-tour golfer who is really struggling with his identity being wrapped around his golf score. I’d become a great guy when I was shooting sixties and a real jerk when I was shooting high seventies, I didn’t like that because you can’t control a golf ball and whether it falls in or out. When our identity is wrapped up in that it leads to a shallow existence and a shallow self-worth which I was experiencing, I was down and out.
Courtney and I sat down and prayed, we called ourselves Christians but we weren’t really walking the walk. So we said if we believe who Jesus Christ is and what he has done, then we really need to sit down and look at who we are. It was a turning point in our lives, not to say that we are now perfect, we still screw up every single day and golf still becomes important to me, but I trust him and his plan regardless. Some of the greatest moments of my career have come after some of the greatest studies we had and fellowship moments with brothers out on the tour.
We are all given platforms, whether it is to reach one person in our life or millions but I think there is going to be a moment where we come face to face with God and he says ‘I gave you talents and abilities, what did you do with them?’ I just want to stand there and say that I did my best to give it all back. That really drives me everyday.
You’ve won two PGA tournaments, the first being Tampa Bay Championship, proudest moment as a golfer?
Tampa was amazing, I played some of my best golf that weekend, I had a one-shot lead going into the final round and to be able to hold onto that was a lot of fun. It also proved to me that I was good enough to win out there so it served as a massive confident boost. That would probably be number three for me to be honest.
My second would be at the Travelers Championship last year. It just hit me that I get to taste this dream and play on the PGA Tour and it completely changed my perspective and vision for that week. I was fortunate to make the cut and then shot a nice sixty-four to get in contention but I was one shot over through eight holes, in about twenty-fifth to thirtieth place at the time. Then suddenly I birdied nine, parred ten and eleven and then birdied twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen and eighteen. I have never, in my life birdied seven holes in a row and the only way I could do that was complete surrender to God’s control and plan for me at that moment. I couldn’t do that by myself, I was really in his hands.
My number one moment was at the Masters in 2014, we get to pick our par three caddies and it was just on my heart to contact the Make A Wish foundation. So they got me in touch with a kid called Ethan and I just get emotional thinking about it, golf is just a game but we can use it to change people’s lives. So I won the par three tournament with Ethan caddying.
Playing at Augusta for the Masters is often seen as the pinnacle for any golfer, can you sum up the experience for us?
The course itself is just amazing for what is is, as a golf course. You learn something new about it every time you play there. It’s the coolest place on earth for those few days and the course itself is an incredible challenge, the fans respect the game and the players so well. It’s also an emotionally draining week, it takes a lot out of you so you are pretty wiped by Sunday night.
Now golfers seem to go on for ever these days, so at 38 what are your playing ambitions looking ahead?
I truly feel that I can improve a lot, I work out really hard and train to stay healthy. The key is to still hit the ball far enough and in doing so I am able to hang with the young guys. It often comes down to becoming a better putter, so I can continue to work with my putter and short game then whatever the plan is, I will trust. I still feel called to be out there and love working at it, it’s a lot of work and I will know at the end of it all, that I gave everything.
Do you have fellow Christian golfers that you connect with?
Some of my closest friends out there are believers, Aaron Baddeley is amazing, Ben Crane is like the wise statesman here, Webb Simpson and Paul are rocks out there and Scott Langley is a young guy who is on fire for Christ. Stewart Cink is a big brother to me out there and Zach Johnson, we are close friends and got to play the last round of the US Open together this year. There are a high number of incredible guys out there.