In His ‘Grip’ [v162]

22 JUN 12

In His ‘Grip’
(Gene Besh’s Eulogy)

My dad’s ‘love-affair’ with golf lasted most of his life. A few weeks ago when we were talking about this, he estimated that, over his lifetime, he played over 500 different courses and hit over a million golf balls! WOW!

After he “retired”—for a second time in 2000—he played at least 3-5 times per week, primarily with the guys that were his pawl bearers this morning.

Some of the comments these guys have made to me over the past few months while my dad was in hospice, will give you a good ‘overview’ of my dad:

“As you all know Gene was a golf nut. He told me I would play better if I had different clubs, mine were not suited properly for my swing. I thought he was nuts but to humor him I said he should make me a new set. He would not let me buy them at a golf shop because he knew what I needed. He was right, I hit the ball longer and straighter. Every time I hit the ball over the green I said it was Gene’s fault. We joked about that for many years. He did know his golf.”

“My son, Ryan, always had a good swing, but couldn’t hit the ball well—so Gene worked with him. Now, my son is a very good golfer, and says that it was Gene’s instruction that helped him out so much.

Then, when Channel 4 sportscaster Bernie Smilowitz was watching Gene give Ryan lessons one time, after we left Bernie asked if Gene if he would give his son lessons, too. Gene did—he always helped anyone that wanted it.”

“It didn’t matter if we were playing golf or walking in the mall, Gene was always fun to be with.  He was a very kind and thoughtful man. I will miss his friendship and all the good times we had. His optimism through his illness is something I will always admire.  Gene was a person who we all looked up to, respected and loved.”

“Gene never promoted himself or his abilities. Verbal pronunciations about politics, were without question and absolute. His standards were well intentioned, and the criteria for behavior for those who would benefit were always high. Like St. Francis of Assisi, Gene feed the animals on the golf course, and tended to his human flock with care, compassion, and love. That was the heart of Gene. Minimize self; maximize others.”

“Gene would strike fear into the prototype workers at Milford Fabrication. They were always afraid of what Gene would find on a final inspection of a part.”

“Once, a few years ago, I had a personal sadness that I thought I could not handle. Gene was replete with compassion and understanding—and a ‘connection’ that I rarely felt with another human being. “The calendar takes care of everything, my friend,” Gene always said. He had a way of taking you from the present pain and transporting you into a future of hope. His quote to me has came to pass in my life!”

“Over the past few years—since both of us were single and our children lived a good bit away—we depended upon each other for rides to the doctors or just being available for each other to meet for a coffee, or just to talk.”

“Almost all of my thoughts about Gene evolve around golf. He had so many sayings like “field testing.” He put together clubs to “field test” their reliability—then would change them to see what was better. Gene also taught me how to fold my golf shirts so as to keep them nicely pressed while we traveled all around Alabama playing the ”Robert Trent Jones Trail” golf courses. He used phrases like “como si gamo,” “basta,” and “comi sta.” Gene was bullheaded at times, but great fun to be around, and very enjoyable to play a round of golf with. Gene was a unique individual.”

“Let me say that Gene was always a gentlemen and respectful of others. He would go out of his way to be sure you were comfortable with what was going on.”

“I invited Gene to his first ‘invitational’ tournament—and it was a very prestigious one. So, he called me at 5:30 a.m. so we could meet for breakfast and get to the course a ‘bit’ early. We were scheduled to tee off at 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon, and the course was only 8 MINUTES away from his house! He was definitely nervous about it. But, evidently it was just what he needed to do—we won the tournament!”

“Gene was a person with a strong personality that had strong beliefs and seldom varied from them. We had many discussions and some differences of opinion. Even though our discussions sometimes were “lively,” I always knew these differences would not harm our friendship.

More than one day, I would say to him that I couldn’t understand why my ball wouldn’t go as far as his.  His reply was: ”When was the last time you were on the practice range?”  Of course, he knew the answer before he asked it…never.”

One of the things they didn’t mention about what my dad did—at least to me every time we went golfing—was for me to show him my grip on the club… and since I don’t play that often anymore, it was always wrong. He said the proper grip was the ‘essence’ of the swing—and he tried to instill that essence into my memory ever since he started me golfing at five years of age.

So, over the past 50 years or so, I’ve tried the three most popular grips. The 10-finger grip (aka the “baseball” grip)—I used that one when I was very young. On the high school golf team, I used the most popular grip at the time, the “interlocking grip.” But recently the “Vardon” or “overlapping grip” has become the most popular and effective grip. Having used it for the past few decades, it does seem to be the best one for me.

Now, anyone that has been playing for any amount of time will tell you that changing to a ‘proper’ grip—from and ‘improper’ one—can be tough to do, and usually take some time to accomplish.

That’s why they make training aids, like this one my dad gave me [SHOW GRIP END]. This primarily assists you in getting the ‘feel’ of the proper ‘alignment’, and help you ‘burn’ into your brain the proper grip until it becomes second nature.

As you can see—if you’re here up front or have really good eyes—instead of just a smooth round grip, there are some ‘protrusions’ that place your hands in the exact proper location in relationship to the club head, and how the hands should ‘interact’ with each other. This is what I used to change my grip some years back to an interlocking grip [PLACE HANDS ON GRIP AND SHOW IT].

So, in golf, the placement of the hands on the club is the single most important factor to influence swinging the club correctly. If the hands are not in ‘balance’, if the club is not placed in the fingers so that the centrifugal force can work effectively, if the hands don’t line up with the club face properly, or if there is inappropriate grip pressure during the swing, it is impossible to produce powerful and accurate golf shots. Then, with just the right amount of ‘pinching tension’ from the forefinger and thumb on each hand—in the proper “V” configuration—the ‘presence’ of the club head becomes much more pronounced, and aids the golfer in performing the best swing he can.

Well, just as with golf, there are ‘training aids’ for those who want to investigate or strengthen their belief in God—primarily, this is the Bible—God’s “instruction manual” for us before leaving earth. We often hear the phrase, “Hey Joe, get a grip!” Not bad counsel, both in golf and in life! We must ‘get a grip’ or a ‘handle’ on what God has said to function effectively in relationships here on earth, but especially in our relationship with Him.

The Bible is our ‘connection’ to the God—giving us wisdom to guide our thoughts and actions in the proper way. Just as we ‘connect’ with people on a daily basis via phone, e-mail, texts to better understand them and find out what they want from us. So it is when we are ‘communicating’ with the One that made us—and being our Creator, He’s definitely the ‘Father that knows best’ for our daily lives, and for the ‘long haul’ of eternity.

Just as in golf, when one wants to improve their grip, the selection of an instructor is a key decision. You want someone who has the expertise, and will be available when you need them.

So then, wouldn’t the selection of an ‘instructor’ to help you determine where you will spend eternity be an even bigger decision? Into whose ‘hands’ are you going to trust for this kind of guidance? Remarkably, some people put more effort into selecting their golf instructor than they do in determining who God is.

The Bible suggests that if you allow Jesus to take a ‘grip’ on you and your life, He has promised that He will guide you and direct your paths—in good times and in bad.

My “life verse” from the Bible—kind of a ‘motto’ I live by—comes from a book of ‘wisdom’ called “Proverbs.” It says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” [v 3:5-6].

But, to be clear, as it says in the verse, this will ONLY happen if you “acknowledge” Him as your Lord and Savior—to truly accept Him as the one and only God, and honestly ‘give up’ your own desires and replace them with His—and then, He will never lead you astray!

Though God never promised us a “rose garden,” He did promise that, “Blessed is the man who endures trials, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him [James 1:12].

An unknown author said this better than I can in this following poem:

“God never promised a life without pain,

laughter without tears, or sun without rain.

But He did promise strength for the day,

comfort for the tears, and the light for the way.

And for all who believe in His Heaven above,
He rewards their faith with His everlasting love.”

Just as the golfer will occasionally get into a sand trap and face the difficult challenge of successfully getting out of it, the “bunkers” of our daily existence are inevitable—but, they don’t have to be totally debilitating if you have prepared ahead of time for them. And when a “believer” in Jesus finally gets out of the ‘situation’, and looks back at it, they realize it could have been much worst, and that God sustained them throughout the entire process—that they were in His ‘grip’.

The thing is, God never measures you by what you ‘do’, but what you ‘are’—the character of your inner being. This can sometimes be a bit ‘nebulous’—certainly not as easy as determining your golf handicap, average driving distance, or score for the round you just played—because God measures the “heart.” He already knows our true character, and is more interested in our potential than in revealing the flaws of our past.

All this is easier said than done, but rest assured, just like developing a “tension-free” golf swing, the best life we will ever have here on earth will only be after we have totally trusted God with our lives! And this is not a ‘blind’ faith—but a faith built on a solid foundation of the promises God has ‘made good’ on in the past! That ‘base’ is then strengthened when we properly ‘align’ our desires with God’s, and then just trust what Father Ray talked about in his homily—that Jesus is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE…and that NO ONE will get to Heaven without BELIEVING IN HIM!

My father believed this wholeheartedly, and because of that, I know for sure that he is in Heaven right now!

And, to make today a bit less ‘painful’, I also know FOR SURE that I WILL see him again!

The question for you to ponder today is: Are you SURE you will see my dad again?

So, to help you remember my dad, on your way out of the sanctuary, pick up a logoed golf ball from “Katke-Cousins” golf course—the one my dad worked at last. And to remind you of my message today, you will notice that there are two ‘check marks’ on it.

The first one [SHOW THE BALL, POINT AT A CHECK] is to remind you to ‘check’ to see if you are ‘right’ with God, so YOU KNOW FOR SURE you will see my dad again—and as I mentioned previously, God’s Son, Jesus, DID IT ALL for you…all you have to do is accept His FREE GIFT of salvation by believing He is God, and therefore has the ability to absolve you of all your sins!

The second ‘check mark’ is to remind you to check your ‘grip’ on Jesus. We all will be ‘gripped’ by someone or something in this life. So, my question to you is, “Do you have a PROPER ‘grip’ on life?—one that is devoted to being a servant to others and living a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control [Galatians 5:22-23].

A friend of mine, Larry Moody, the President of Search Ministries, described to me a marvelous metaphor for life that he uses as the chaplain to PGA tour players. It summarizes the spiritual options available to all of us using the letters in the word “golf.”

The first option is leaving this earth WITHOUT knowing Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. That would go something like this:

Going Out Lost Forever

The second option is BEING SURE that you will live with God in Heaven for eternity:

God Offers Love and Forgiveness

It’s very ‘binary’—just two choices, and God won’t force you one way or another.

Author Jim Sheard does a great job in relating the game of golf to faith—and this quote so happens to be on the back of my dad’s memorial card [SHOW MEMORIAL CARD].

“The ultimate aim of golf lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of the participants. The ultimate aim of life lies not in our accomplishments or success, but in the perfection of our character in the likeness of Christ.”

So, let me finish by strongly suggesting that you allow the ‘grip’ of Jesus to get you out of the ‘bunkers’ of life on this earth…as well as to allow Him to prepare a place for you in Heaven! [John 14:1-4].


Psalm 37:3-6; 23-24; and 39-40
Proverbs 3:1-6
John 10:7-11
Matthew 25:1-5; and 10-13
John 11:17; 21-26
Revelation 21:1-7
John 14:1-6

One Response to “In His ‘Grip’ [v162]”

  1. Michele Houghton Says:

    MARK, WHAT A GREAT, CREATIVE. WAY TO SUM UP YOUR DAD’s life as well as describe what real life in Christ is.You are such a gifted writer!


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