Ben Crane, Master Golfer
by Pastor Dan White
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Ben Crane plays in the Masters Golf Tournament this week for the fourth time. At 35, Crane has established himself as a fixture on the PGA Tour after he enjoyed the best year of his career in 2010.
Crane was 23rd on the money list winning a career best $2,841,500 in 2010. He won the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines for the third victory of his PGA Tour career to qualify for the 2011 Masters.
Last year, Crane made the cut for the first time at the Masters and tied for 24th after he shot a 4-under 68 in the final round.
Professional athletes are like precision machines, and Ben is no exception. If an athlete has a physical breakdown, it spells trouble.
When his back went out at the start of the 2005 season, he couldn’t swing and began to wonder if he could ever “get back out there again.”
His wife Heather said that life as professional golfer has its highs and lows. Her husband’s back injury was certainly a low point in their lives.
Instead of having surgery, he redeveloped his swing and sought help from noted physical therapist Tom Boers.
During those dark days, Crane testifies that their faith in the Lord carried them through. “The hardest times turn out to be the richest times. You learn to stand on God’s love when everything else is stripped away. James 4:10 says, "When you bow down and admit your dependence on Christ, he will lift you up and give you honor." That has really rung true in my life -- as my dependence grows on Christ, my strength increases.”
It also helps that Crane has a sense of humor. The Scripture teaches that a merry heart is good medicine. His “On Working Out” YouTube video has gone virile with over 500,000 hits. Golf Magazine calls him one of the seven funniest golfers on tour today. You can access his video at
Ben has a reputation of being a precision golfer and an excellent putter which serves him well on Augusta’s lightning fast, tricky greens. He uses a carpenter's square and a digital level in practice to fine tune his putting. At the 2009 TPC, he led the field with nine birdies on Thursday’s round making 14 one-putts in tying the most one-putts by any player in the last 25 years at the TPC.
His precision comes from his passion to improve. Crane spoke at the 2011 Masters Prayer Breakfast, “I think constantly about golf – even what I will wear and how I will look out there on the Augusta National course. It’s easy to get so caught up in golf that you lose track of what is most important in life.”
But, as much as Crane covets the Green Jacket, golf is not his primary focus. Golf once consumed him during his college days playing for the University of Oregon until a pastor providentially came into his life.
His wife, Heather, who met Ben in college, said, “Ben worshipped golf. Even though he was raised in the Valley Presbyterian Church in Beavertown, he had wandered away.”
The pastor of Beavertown Four Square Church, Rev. Ron Mehl, was given a membership in the Portland Country Club by one of his parishioners. It happened to be the same club where Ben played. Consequently, Pastor Ron and Ben’s paths crossed. A relationship of mentor and mentee developed leading Ben to bow his knee to Christ instead of to the altar of golf.
Ben said, “I was a pretty good guy, but I couldn’t do better even when I tried to force myself to be a better person. If I could have been a better person, I would have done it.
“When Christ changed my heart, I found that because of my heart change, my life changed. My life has meaning now. I don’t live for myself. Jesus gives me joy and peace just like he promised in his Word. Christ took on my sins at the cross. When I believed, I was made like new and restored to a personal relationship with him.”
Ben testifies, “I use my success in golf to glorify God, and golf gives me a platform to serve the Lord through helping others in his name.”
One platform is the Ben and Heather Crane Foundation which supports HOPE Farm and Love 146. Their pro-am golf tournament has raised $2 million for their foundation. Crane said, “It is one of the most rewarding things we do and gives our lives meaning and purpose. Our life is defined not by winning on the tour but in helping others in Jesus’ name.”
HOPE Farm is an after school program for boys without fathers. Their objective is to try and break the cycle of fear and violence by giving boys who enter the program an opportunity to experience the benefits of a Christian environment.
Love146 is an international group dedicated to eradicating the sexual exploitation of children particularly in Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines. Last spring, his wife went to the Love 146 home in Manila, Philippines, to minister to abused girls and girls who have been sexually trafficked. Heather saw how an abused little girl who had attempted suicide was restored through faith, love, and therapy. The girl said, “I came in here like a broken leaf, and now I am leaving like a tree.” Heather is also involved with the ministry in Dallas.
Ben and Heather’s heart for Christ to serve others led them to spend a week in New Orleans with his parents, his brother and sister-in-law, a nephew and a cousin, on a mission trip to clean up after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Crane says, “It’s great winning a tournament. It’s fun for a moment, and then it’s gone. For me, lasting joy is my personal relationship with Christ, time with my family, and serving others in Jesus’ name.”
Ben Crane is focused on winning the Masters this week, but his life’s focus is on the Master who gives his life meaning, purpose, peace, and joy.
A professional athlete doesn’t work alone. It takes a team effort. Ben has assembled a national team to help him. Greg Rose from Titalist in San Diego is his swing coach, and James Sieckmann from Omaha coaches his short game. Lanny Bassaham from Dallas is his mental therapist. Tommy Limbaugh, a former coach at the University of Alabama, serves as his manager, and Joel Stock, a former team mate from the University of Oregon caddies for him. Mark Wahl from Riverhead, New York, is his physical therapist.
At the beginning of every year, the team gathers to set out goals for the new year. Always, their first goal is for God to be glorified in all they do. They decided to put together a day-by-day devotional book for golfers that is sent out upon request free and postage paid. If you would like a copy, visit http://bencranegolf.com/ and click on Ben’s Daily Devotional for the 2011 season. Each day’s devotions can also be sent to you electronically.
Eric Scofield of Young Life Ministries, put the devotional together, and PGA Chaplain, Larry Moody, also has articles in the book.
The Scripture is a source of help and inspiration for Crane. Crane carried Ephesians 3:20 in his yardage book during the Atlanta BellSouth Tournament which he won in 2003 for his first PGA Tour victory. That Scripture states, “Now to Christ who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.”
Crane says that by the grace of God, I can do infinitely more than I dare to dream or ask or imagine. Without my relationship with God, I wouldn't be on tour. Through my relationship with the Lord, God gives me a sense of peace, strength and courage to do things greater than I’m capable of on my own. That's when I know I’m in the will of God, when I am doing things that are greater than my ability and strength."
Ben has experienced the highs and lows of being a professional golfer. In February 2006, just before he turned thirty, he was the highest ranked American golfer under that age in the Official World Golf Rankings. He was a rising star, but then back trouble flared up again, and he missed the majority of the 2007 season. He played on the 2008 PGA Tour on a major medical extension.
At the beginning of the current season, he had back problems again and was sidelined for a short time. But, he is well enough to play in this week’s Master’s - golf’s greatest tournament.
Master’s week is thoroughly enjoyed by him and his family. They really take pleasure in Wednesday’s Par 3 contest. Cassidy, their four year old daughter caddies for her father outfitted in her pink shoes and the white Augusta National jumpsuit.
Whether he wins or loses, whether he places in the Top Ten or doesn’t make the cut, you can be sure that Ben Crane will glorify the Lord in all that he is and all that he does because that is simply who he is.
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