Golfer Zach Johnson has credited his win in this week's Open Golf tournament to his strong Christian faith and dedication to prayer, but emphasized that the achievement will never ultimately define him.
On Monday, the 39-year-old American claimed his second major title with victory in a three-man play-off on the final day in the 144th Open Championship in St. Andrews, Scotland, defeating Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman.
ESPN notes that in the moments after his win, an emotional Johnson could barely speak as he hugged his wife, Kim, and longtime caddie Damon Green.
"Dreams have been realized and goals accomplished," said the champion as he held the Claret Jug. "It takes me back to when I turned professional. You could even go back further than that when I was playing as a youngster. These are the things you dream about. These are the things you've worked to get to.
A devout Christian, Johnson revealed that he prepped for the tournament by reading Scripture verses and praying for strength and perseverance.
"I had some scripture going in my head and I thank the Lord," he told reporters, the Daily Star reported.
"I was reading bits of scripture to myself, things like Psalm 24:7 (which reads, "Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in")," he added. "I've been reading them all week. I thank God for the talent he's given me, and I take it seriously."
This is not the first time Johnson has credited his faith for his success; after winning his previous Major, the US Masters in 2007, he told reporters, "I felt regardless of what happened today, my responsibility was to glorify God, and hopefully he thinks I did."
Only secondary to Johnson's faith is his family: in a testimony article on the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) website, the golfer revealed that while he grew up in a Catholic home, he truly became a Christian through the influence of his wife.
"in 2000, I met a girl named Kim. I really liked her. We hit it off and soon started dating. I was still traveling during the summer seasons, but we maintained our relationship. Over time, I realized that faith in Christ was extremely important to her and that marrying a Christian man was pretty much a dealbreaker for her," he writes.
"I discovered what it meant to 'live for Christ,' and that it honestly was something I wanted to do. The facts were there, and I could sense the Holy Spirit at work. Early in the winter of 2002, I gave my life to the Lord. Before I was one," he says, "I always thought being a Christian would be boring. In reality, it has been the complete opposite."
Since then, Johnson writes, his priorities have entirely changed: "It's not Zach's agenda anymore," he explains, "I refer to the years after high school and before making my decision as my 'blind years.' Now, I can see."
In light of his Christian faith and strong family values, Johnson emphasizes that no matter how big his athletic achievements, they will never ultimately define him.
"I am just a guy from Iowa and to have a green jacket and the claret jug is unbelievable," he told reporters on Monday. "But it won't define who I am. It will not be my legacy, my wife and kids are my legacy."