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  • Writer's pictureJimmy Stanger

Experiencing the PGA Tour for the first time... as a member- $20 Per Birdie to BirdiesforHope!


The 2024 PGA Tour season is underway! Since I can remember, I have dreamed of competing on the PGA Tour. To begin this year competing there is beyond special. I am so thankful for all of you who have supported and cheered for me.

 

I am also so thankful for all of you who have supported and encouraged BirdiesforHope. The purpose of BirdiesforHope is to bring hope to the world through the avenue of professional golf. It has continually amazed me how God has used minor league golf to bless communities around the world who might not even know what golf is. As we move to the PGA Tour in 2024, the purpose is the same: to glorify God by spreading hope through professional golf.

 

Update Overview

 

This will be a longer update. A lot has happened personally in the past couple of months. In November, I asked my girlfriend, Isabel Cortina, to marry me. She said yes! We are now deep in the throes of wedding planning. I also purchased my first house in December. What a blessing this has been but also added responsibility. And BirdiesforHope has continued to grow in ways that has even surprised me.

 

 I am learning how to manage these blessings with the dedication required to compete with the best in the world. A hall of fame athlete messaged me after receiving my PGA Tour card, “Congratulations. You did it. Now you get to work even harder.”

 

In this update, I want to share with you my perspective of experiencing the PGA Tour for the first time, the adventure from Honolulu to Palm Springs (including an emergency landing and sleeping on an airport floor) and the feeling of being in contention on the PGA tour during the American Express Championship.

 

But first, I am excited to map out my vision for BirdiesforHope in 2024.

 

 

BirdiesforHope Update:


For every birdie I make on the PGA Tour in 2024, I will be donating $20 to BirdiesforHope! In 2023, I made 325 birdiesforHope. We raised over $50,000 in total. I have learned better than to put a cap on how much we can raise in one year, but I hope we can raise at least $75,000 this year!

 

Already I have been blown away by the support BirdiesforHope has received this year. In the American Express Championship, a pro-am format, my amateur partner pledged $500 per birdie for the first round. I ended up making 8 birdies and he generously donated $4000. We have another generous supporter, who, with his 2 sons, are planning a “BirdiesforHope day.” They will play as many holes of golf in one day as possible and get sponsors to pledge per hole played. I am made speechless by generosity like this!

 

As donations increase and BirdiesforHope grows, I do want to make sure we do not forget BirdiesforHope’s original purpose, to give back by spreading hope, both by giving food, clothing, education, and shelter to the needy but especially by giving the true hope of eternal salvation in Jesus Christ.

There are many incredible charities out there and so many causes that need our attention.  This is where I feel led.

 

My Hope: The Gospel

 

As a Christian, I see my daily shortcomings, my sins, and realize that they separate me from the holy and perfect God. No matter how good I am, how much money I raise, or how many charities I serve, I can’t be in God’s presence because I am not holy or perfect. God is perfect. I am not.

Put in golf terms, perfection is shooting 18 in 18 holes, with every shot struck exquisitely, falling into the middle of the cup with perfect speed. I can’t do that. My best round ever is 62. In human terms, that is pretty good. Compared to perfection, 62 is like filthy rags.  I need a savior. I need hope.  

 

This hope is found in Jesus Christ. Unlike me, He lived a perfect, sinless life. He died on a cross as my substitute, taking the punishment I deserve for my mistakes. As my substitute, he took my sin upon himself while His righteousness was legally transposed to me. I don’t deserve this righteousness nor did I earn it. It was His costly grace given to me. Legally, I am righteous! In God’s just sight, I am now reconciled to Him because all my sin, past, present, and future, has been laid upon Christ on the cross.

 

But furthermore, we believe that Christ rose from the dead on the 3rd day, proving to be who He said He was. The grave was empty, He appeared to over 500 people, and the disciples went from cowering in a room to willing to give their lives telling people Jesus is their living hope.

 

Jesus wasn’t just our hope 2000 years ago. He is our hope today. As the all-powerful God who became man, He wants us to love and serve others as He did. He wants us to joyfully share with others that reconciliation with God is possible through faith in Christ. We do not need to fear meeting our Maker after death. We have hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

BirdiesforHope Opportunities:

 

As BirdiesforHope grows, I want to make sure we are funding this hope. Since 2020, we have helped finance 9 church buildings that are all bringing hope to their communities. We are going to continue to finance the building of these “Centers of Hope.” These buildings allow the local church to serve their communities day in and day out. They offer schools for children during the week, entrepreneurial classes for those looking to escape the drug trade, hospitals in emergency situations, and shelter during heavy storms. They provide hope to their communities in the temporal, but also in the eternal. They teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and live it out daily through their actions.

 

Along with our partner, ICM, we are searching for our next church project and will have one very soon. In the meantime, we have two unique opportunities.

 

1.     Many of these churches we support have expressed a desire to reach those even further out in the country. We can help these local churches expand into radio, with the purpose to reach those far outside of the villages. Specifically, we would be partnering with our San Rafael, La Odisea, San Vicente and El Rosal Church. This project has already been tried with much success with other local churches in the area! Below, I have added a testimony of one those who have been positively impacted by this radio program with other local churches at the bottom of this update.

 

2.     We also have an opportunity to help raise funds for training local pastors and their churches. This will entail everything from sending resources and people to these and other churches, helping set up conferences for them to attend, and paying for members of these congregations to attend formal education. This project is broad and will start small but I hope it can grow in size and scope.

 

I envision BirdiesforHope becoming a foundation that has a wide scope. Our purpose, spreading hope, will remain the same but the application will grow. Our focus will be continuing to build church buildings. However, if you would like your donation to go towards either of these two projects, please just leave a small note in your donation.

 

Thank you so much for all your kindness and support of BirdiesforHope since 2020. It means so much to me. I am excited to see where it leads!

 

If you would like to pledge any amount for the season, please click on this link here.

 

If you would like to give a one time donation, please click here.

  

If you would like to do something unique, whether that be a pledge for one event, or you yourself would like to organize something, please feel free to reach out here at my email. Thank you again!




Career Update:



First 2024 PGA Tour Start: The Sony Open

 

As I stood on the driving range at 6:30 Monday morning of the Sony Open, my first official PGA Tour event of 2024, I felt shivers run down my spine.

This was not my first PGA Tour event ever. I competed in 5 others from 2017 through 2019. I competed against Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy (and 154 other golfers) in 2018 at the Valspar Championship). I even co led a PGA Tour event after day 1 at the 2017 Shriners Hospital for Children’s open.  Still, this was different. In every other PGA Tour event where I competed, I felt like a stranger, an outsider. Each PGA tour professional felt like my elder, someone I aspired toward. I never felt like I belonged. So as I stood on the range, it hit me. I had earned my place on the PGA Tour. This start was not the result of a benevolent sponsor’s exemption, or a lucky Monday Qualifier. I am now a member of the PGA Tour. After 6 years on the Korn Ferry Tour, I know 90% of these guys as peers and friends, most of whom went through that tour. And I will have a year to see how I stack up against the very best in the world. Being a Professional Golfer is not my identity, but I LOVE the competition.

 

I arrived in Hawaii early. In fact, we all did. Every rookie member of the PGA Tour had to show up the Friday before tournament week for “rookie Orientation.” Staying at the Royal Hawaiian, we enjoyed some fantastic Hawaiian breakfasts and luaus. But mostly we sat in a conference room learning the basics of membership on the PGA Tour. Beginning at 9 am and extending into the evening, we learned about retirement programs, sponsor obligations, and slow play policies, among other things. By the end of the 2nd day, I could not wait to get to the golfing part of the job.

 

By Thursday, the wind started whipping, and we were drenched with occasional ocean sprawls. While I did not play my best golf in Hawaii, I enjoyed every minute of the tournament. Due to missing a few too many fairways, and a rusty wedge game, I fell two shots short of the cut line. While I felt like I belong, I did feel like a rookie. I realized that I will need to learn new courses every week, while traveling to new locations. While this may seem exciting (and it is), it is an adjustment for me. Still, I left encouraged because I knew my game was not far off and there is still a lot of golf to be played this season!

 


The Honolulu to Palm Springs Travel Debacle

 

Whenever an airline calls your name over the intercom before you board an airplane to let you know that your lay-flat seat does not recline, switch flights! At least that was my lesson learned. After enjoying sightseeing on Oahu Island Saturday and Sunday morning, my parents, my fiancé, and I boarded a Hawaiian airlines red eye flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles. We planned to arrive Monday morning, drive the 3 hours to Palm Springs, and begin the full week of practice that afternoon. Uniquely, the American Express Championship in Palms Springs, CA has three golf courses to learn, so that means 18 holes of practice Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, just to see all three courses before the tournament begins on Thursday. But, man makes plans and God orders his steps.

 

Despite being made aware that “your seat does not recline,” I could not switch seats because the airplane was completely full.  I was so tired that I felt like I could sleep anywhere that night! Immediately, we noticed the plane felt rickety, and not well maintained. Ex. My seat had “Inoperable” stickers all over it! No biggie, we thought. We trust the airline.

 

As we took off, it seemed like we were right. 20 minutes in, I began to doze off. Right as I felt myself slipping into a sweet slumber, I was awakened by the loud “ding” of an announcement.  It was the pilot, “We are sorry, there has been a maintenance issue, we will need to make an emergency landing back in Honolulu. We will be on the ground in about 15 minutes.”

 

About 5 minutes later, we felt the plane begin to vibrate and shake. Something was off. We could see the flight attendant shifting nervously. She whispered (loudly) in the plane phone, “Should we tell them that its going to be a rough landing. Should we tell them or not?”. Comforting, right?

Despite years of stories flying, this was a new one. I was not comfortable, and my fiancé was in tears. “Why are you not praying harder!” she whispered to me.

We expected to be on the ground quickly, but circled for an hour, slowly descending and decreasing in speed. Around 2 am, we landed safely. As soon as the plane came to a stop, we felt the engines shut off and found ourselves parked on the runway. Three ambulances and firetrucks sped out to our plane, yet we remained seated until we were towed back to our gate.

 

By this point, it’s about 3 am, and we are just happy to be alive and try to get some sleep. We excited the aircraft, back where we had started 4 hours earlier. A Hawaiian Airlines attendant then told us our new departure time was 9 am, blankets are by the gate, and that we could “spread out and catch some sleep in the airport.” Not many zzz’s were to be had. So after a fitful night of sleep on the ground of Honolulu Airport, we finally flew stress free to LA and made it to Palm Springs late Monday night. Travel is part of the adventure of the PGA Tour. It certainly was not what I had planned, but it was an adventure nonetheless!

 

 

How it feels to be in contention on the PGA Tour:

 

The American Express Championship in Palm Springs CA arrived quickly! After two full days of rushing to learn the three golf courses, I showed up Thursday feeling a bit underprepared. Yet, this week turned into a memorable week I will never forget.

Round 1: -7, 65. Round 2: -6, 66. Round 3: -6, 66 to put me 19 under par through three rounds and in the top 10 going into the final round. The golf game felt rock solid, and I putted so well. In round 4, I had the privilege to play with Patrick Cantlay, the 5th ranked golfer in the world.

 

I did not feel anything out of the ordinary before beginning the final round. I knew I would be excited, but 5 years of competing on the Korn Ferry Tour prepared me well for these nerves. That is, until they announced my name on the 1st hole. “Now on the Tee, from Tampa, Florida, Jimmy Stanger!”. Immediately, my heart started pumping 10 times faster. My hands began shaking. Somehow, I made a great swing and drove it in the fairway. Through the first 5 holes, I struggled to settle down. Every iron flew 10 yards too far and every putt rolled 5 ft by the hole. Fortunately, I stayed patient and made all the comebackers. After rolling in a 30 ft birdie putt on the 6th hole, it was off to the races. Through 14 holes, I found myself -5 on the round and -24 under par for the tournament. I do not look at leaderboards, but I believe I was in the top 5. I could feel it in the crowd. Still, I stayed so patient and never got ahead of myself mentally. The round did not finish how I hoped it would. My birdie putt on hole 16 just slipped by. Then I made a poor swing to the island green on the par 3 hole 17 that ended up in the pond, leading to a double bogey. After a par on the last hole, I finished -22 for the tournament and in 14th.

 

I learned so much from this week and I am so thankful. During that round, I kept thinking to myself how prepared I felt for this moment because of the years in contention on the Korn Ferry Tour. The emotions are the same, the tournament is just bigger. I am confident that next time I am in that position, I cannot just hang on, but finish strong.

 

There were so many other stories from this three week stretch that I just don’t have time to share. Thank you so much for taking interest in my career and following along.

 

After a few weeks off, I am on my way to Mexico for the Mexico Open. I will be playing 3 in a row: Mexican Open, Cognizant Classic In Palm Beach (Formerly the Honda Classic), and the Puerto Rico Open. Lets get it and make some BirdiesforHope!

 

To God be the Glory always.

Sincerely,

Jimmy Stanger

 








BirdiesforHope Radio Program Testimony: 

TESTIMONY: EDGAR TUNUBALÁ MORALES – My name is Edgar, I am 32 years old, and my introduction to God came during my childhood through the Christian parents of a close friend. Despite their efforts to share their faith with me and invite me to Sunday school, I was a rebellious, restless, and disobedient child. Growing up in a dysfunctional family marked by frequent fights and a lack of emotional and physical affection, I faced numerous challenges. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I narrowly escaped death on five occasions, and it is undoubtedly the unwavering love and power of God that has sustained me through these trials. Upon enrolling in the communications program at the university in the indigenous community, I found myself compelled to attend church, as the classes were held there. During one of the courses, the professor assigned us a project related to the Buenas Nuevas Guambia radio station. Visiting their facilities for information, I was deeply moved by the impactful work they were doing. Witnessing an external organization sending both radio materials and financial support every month to ensure God's message reaches even the most remote corners of the community left a lasting impression on me. Reflecting on this, I contemplated why, as a native of the community, I couldn't contribute to its progress in a similar manner. Embracing this newfound perspective, I began attending church regularly, accepted God into my heart. Now I am an integral part of the team at the radio station. I am dedicated to sharing the message of God with the entire Misak community. This transformative experience has not only shaped my personal journey, but it has also instilled in me a sense of purpose in contributing to the well-being and advancement of my community. Thank you for your support!

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