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  • Steve Burdick

    Steve Burdick, middle, holds the 1994 NCAA championship trophy flanked by Stanford teammates, from left, Brad Lanning, Casey Martin, Will Yanagisawa and Notah Begay. Burdick earned multiple All-America honors.

  • courtesy Steve Burdick

    Steve Burdick was a member of the 1994 NCAA golf championship team.

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Just Golf: Whatever happened to ... Steve Burdick

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 - 10:56 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 - 11:39 pm

Steve Burdick was a force on the local junior golf scene in the late 1980s. He attended Roseville High School and earned a golf scholarship to Stanford, where he had tremendous highs (multiple All-America honors, winning a national championship in 1994 as a junior on a team that included future PGA Tour players Notah Begay and Casey Martin) and lows (slumping and being benched in 1995 on a team that included freshman Tiger Woods). He’s worked for College Golf Fellowship for 13 years.

What is College Golf Fellowship, in a nutshell?

It’s a faith-based, nonprofit corporation that encourages college golfers and coaches in their spiritual journeys.

Are there similar organizations that reach out to athletes in other sports?

We are similar to Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Athletes In Action. The reason College Golf Fellowship came along was because those two ministries didn’t effectively reach college golfers, mostly because they don’t spend as much time on campus.

I thought maybe it was because golfers need more help since they tend to allow their self-esteem to be tied to their golf score.

There’s truth in that statement.

When a pro golfer is interviewed immediately after winning a tournament and first gives thanks to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ regardless of the question, there are many TV viewers who can’t push the remote control mute button fast enough. How do you perceive such moments?

I can understand where people struggle if they’re not a Christian or don’t have a faith-based background. What an athlete is saying when they’re thanking God is acknowledging that their relationship with God is significant in helping them in the process. In the same way an athlete would thank a coach, a playing instructor or sports psychologist, the Christian athlete is simply thanking God. You don’t hear many interviews with Christian athletes who have failed. If you did, I believe that person would still thank God for being part of their process and journey. They’re not thanking God for making them successful.

It’s common for a golfer to hear the advice “trust your swing” when under pressure. Would it be right to say “trust God” under the same circumstances?

Yes. We’re trying to help them see the bigger picture that the score they post doesn’t define who they are. If we can encourage them to work as hard as they can to become the best they can, and then trust God with the ultimate results, we hope to free them up to become the best athletes they can become. Trusting your swing would be similar to trusting God in that you’re not able to control the results, just the process.

Did you play professionally?

I turned pro after I graduated from Stanford and played for about a year and a half. I went to Q school in 1996 and didn’t make it past the first stage.

Did you have a defining moment when you realized pro golf wasn’t in your future?

There were a lot of circumstances that led me to stop playing professional golf. As I continued to get involved in Christian ministry – helping out at the church and leading Bible study _– I started to get more satisfaction from helping people grow in their relationship with God than pursuing golf as a career. My father passed away two months after that Q school. When that happened, that brought about a lot of questions about life and how short life is, and made me start processing how I could have an eternal impact on people’s lives.

Did you ever recover from your slump during your senior year at Stanford?

Not really. I think one of the things that hurt me my senior year was watching Tiger play golf and see how good he was, how far he hit the ball and some of the things he could do with his ball, and then watching him go play in a PGA Tour event and finish 56th. That started me down a path of trying to be too perfect with my golf swing, trying to be too good too quickly instead of just being who I was. I was never going to be Tiger, but I think I could have had a successful playing career. Instead, it sparked a downward spiral. I got the yips with my driver. I was the straightest driver on our team. For me to go from that to can’t hit a fairway, it just played mind games with me.

How’s the game these days?

Not very good, I have to admit. My kids are getting older and dragging me back out there and I’m just having fun with it.

– Steve Pajak

THE BURDICK FILE

• Age: 40

• Lives: Roseville

• Family: Wife Jenelle; daughter Jessica, 9; son Zachary, 6

• Works: Executive director, College Golf Fellowship

Read more articles by Steve Pajak



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