The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

By Bethany Bradsher

Mission possible for globe-trotters


Mission possible for globe-trotters


Barmore silences doubters


ODU sinks Pirates in league debut


Pirates look to overthrow Monarchs


Brandan Stith gets a visit from Dad


Countdown to league play underway


This week in college football history


By Bethany Bradsher
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For today’s column, let’s peek at the past and future travel journals of a few members of the East Carolina golf community. From South America to Africa, several Pirates are parlaying their success on the links into mission and competition abroad.

First we check the passport of 2012 graduate Harold Varner, who is heading to Bogota, Colombia in a month to play in the first event of the tour’s new season. Varner earned a spot on the tour by finishing 32nd overall at the qualifying tournament, which was held in December in La Quinta, CA. It’s the greatest triumph so far for a golfer who has worked steadily to make his way in professional golf since concluding his stellar ECU career.

“Something good is going to happen,” Varner said.

Varner’s finish in the qualifying event guarantees him a space in the first eight tournaments, which include stops in Chile, Brazil, Panama and Mexico, as well as a couple of American courses. If his scores are high enough to stay on the tour after the rankings are reordered in early May, the Pirate Nation will have a chance to cheer him on at the Rex Hospital Open at TPC Wakefield Plantation in Raleigh.

He has attended PGA Qualifying School twice – in 2012 he didn’t advance far enough to qualify for additional tournaments, but last fall he made it to the final round, which put him in the pool for the qualifying tournament. The new opportunities are gratifying, he said, because he has stayed focused on improving his game any way he can – with tougher competition, knowledgeable coaches or his recent move to Jacksonville, FL, where he is playing with a large community of golfers at every level of the pro game.

“People keep asking me what I’ve changed about my game,” he said. “I don’t feel like I changed anything. I just kept working at it and trying to get better.”

For the African leg of our tour, we catch up with the still-jetlagged duo of Al Dickens and Jacob Hicks, two current Pirate golfers who spent a large portion of their Christmas break leading golf clinics and speaking about their Christian faith with amateur duffers in Nairobi, Kenya.

Neither Dickens nor Hicks had ever been on a mission trip before, so when they learned about the Nairobi trip, which was a partnership of College Golf Fellowship and Athletes In Action, they both felt it was time to take a step of faith. The trip was especially appealing because it afforded them an opportunity to teach the game they loved while spreading the good news about the faith that guides them.

“I felt God calling me to do it, especially because it was with golf,” Dickens said. “That’s something I feel God has blessed me with, a talent I have, and to use it as a platform is really cool.”

Dickens and Hicks and their team spent about a fourth of their time volunteering at a Christian school in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, and the majority of their days were spent at a variety of golf courses around the city, teaching golf tips and then concluding the clinic with a Christian message from one of the missionaries. Golf is growing in popularity in Nairobi, Dickens said, even if it is still mostly an elitist sport reserved for the wealthy.

That dynamic gave these young golfers a platform with some of Nairobi’s most powerful leaders.

“We met a lot of important people in government or business, so it was neat to be able to talk about our faith and proclaim the gospel to these very influential people,” he said.

Dickens, Hicks and their teammates will tee off their spring season on February 2 at the Sea Best Invitational in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.

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01/20/2014 03:35 AM