Columnists

Giving in Golf

Doug-Wicks

This past week was a reminder to me of how blessed i am and how critical it is to be generous with my life and resources. It was crystallized as i joined three other men for golf. It turns out that each of these men has made it his habit to multiply goodness in the world, each in a different way. Ironically, we came together to support the goodness of another man—augie nieto—whom most of you would say has not had goodness thrust upon him.

I was asked by a friend, terry, to play in augie nieto’s 4th annual golf & wine event at big canyoncountry club in newport beach, california (see photo by d ramey logan). Terry asked two others to join the group, a.J. And dereck. The four of us were a team for the day, playing two-best balls. I’m happy to say that god will not judge us by our golf game. We all played poorly, but that wasn’t the reason for our getting together for golf.

A.J. would tell you that, a few years ago, he was selfish, arrogant, and very hard to be around, especially when things didn’t go his way. He was a Christian but wasn’t walking like Jesus walked. He told me he used to be sure that all the people in church would see him as he drove away from church in his $100, 000 BMW. He was sure to drove real slow. But he was not a happy man.

Then in 2007 A.J. lost his job in investment banking when his brokerage firm went under due to the collapse of the financial services industry. He went from very wealthy to having next to nothing. His young family liquidated their assets to pay all their bills. He was a broken man. It is often in times like this thatwe turn to God, which is what A.J. did. A.J. and his wife began praying that they could begin giving to others. But they didn’t have anything to give. God provided a way. Through the Internet, A.J. and his wife identified people who needed clothes—often young single mothers—but they also found people who had children’s clothing that the children had either outgrown or didn’t need them anymore. In one week they collected 500 pieces of clothing. Needy families could either take clothing or trade for new clothing. This developed into a warehouse-based ministry—with funding from generous givers— called We Will Serve.

Dereck used to own a video game distribution business. But as a member of a country club he had a love for golf. Three years ago Derrick gave up his business and joined Links Players International [www.linksplayers. com], and he began serving LPI as the Southwest Region Director. Dereck helps coordinate groups (fellowships) of golfers that meet weekly at golf clubs throughout California, Nevada and Arizona.These fellowships bring golfers together for Bible study, prayer, and to play golf. He is the leader of the Mission Viejo Country Club Links Fellowship. Terry is the one who hosted A.J., Dereck and me for Augie’s event. Back in the 1970s, Terry started a private healthcare business from his home, and it later grew into one of the largest in the USA. Before being acquired six years ago, it had grown to employ 7500 people and had 13 million health plan members. Terry has a big heart for pastors and leaders and his gentle spirit and generosity were the motivation for bringing us together to support Augie.

Augustine (Augie) Nieto was a fitness guru in southern California. He popularized the Lifecycle and he built Life Fitness into the largest manufacturer of fitness equipment in the world. Today, Life Fitness employs more than 1,700 people internationally, with dealers and distributors in more than 120 countries. But six years ago, at the age of 47, Augie was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. When you have ALS your nerve cells (neurons) die and can no longer send messages to your muscles.

Your voluntary muscle movements weaken, twitch, and you eventually lose your ability to move. The condition worsens slowly, usually over the period of a few years. Eventually, when the muscles in the chest area stop working, it becomes hard or impossible even to breathe. ALS is an “orphan” disease, meaning that it does not attract much public attention, and therefore little research or funding. Most people with ALS don’t live more than three or four years after the diagnosis. Augie decided to change that ALS needed a cure, and he went on a quest—Augie’s Quest.

Augie’s Quest, in partnership with the Muscular Dystorphy Association, is an “aggressive fundraising and research effort aimed at finding more effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure for ALS.” Augie can now only move his toes. But he has written a book—augie’s quest: one man’s journey from success to significance— using his toes to type. But he’s moving a lot more than toes.
Since Augie and his wife Lynne started this quest, he has raised more than US$28 million. And he has encouraged and bolstered the lives of many who have suffered with this disease.

Through his efforts, there are two drugs that are soon to be approved. Augie says he’s happier now than when he was completely healthy, because he’s helping so many people. He says, “This disease is known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, but it will be known as Augie’s cure.” I pray he’s right. It was a great pleasure to use golf as a reason to join together with these humble servants to help Augie raise another $100,000 for Augie’s Quest. Our golf games were pathetic, but it was golf that brought these good men together.

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