Last fall, UCLA golfer Ariana Patterson trudged to the training room to meet with her personal trainer before practice like every other day.
But instead of a routine meeting, the trainer sent her to the school doctors. They informed her that the only way to heal the persistent pain in her wrist was to have another surgery, and she would need to medically retire from golf. Patterson remembers fighting back tears and feeling lost.
A professing Christian, Patterson couldn't understand why God would let this happen as she was at the height of her game. She had already gone through two wrist surgery in the past two years, which had already limited her playing on the golf team.
"It was frustrating for me to have to see God physically change me and almost cripple me to take the sport away," said Patterson. "I was living my dream, playing at the best school in the country."
Patterson's father first introduced her to the sport at the age of nine. She loved the game because she felt it constantly pushed her: "You could never be perfect in the sport, I always enjoyed constantly working on things." By age 11 she was playing in national tournaments and at 14 she won her first national championship.
While Patterson was raised in a Christian household and attended church, golf was always the priority: "I always felt like I had a relationship with Christ, but I will admit He wasn't number one in my life. I always thanked Him for the ability he gave me but I thought I needed to be famous to share His Word with people."
After playing on the high school team at Santa Catalina School in Monterey, Calif., UCLA recruited her to play for its golf team, which had ranked second in the nation at the time.
So when Patterson found out freshman year that she needed wrist surgery to correct her previous injury and the damage done from the tendonitis, she was devastated. The first procedure was insufficient, and she needed to have two more surgeries in her first three years at UCLA. Although she remained part of the team, she was only able to play during preseason. She missed out on playing with her team as they won the National Championship during the 2009-2010 season.
In the meantime she joined Athletes in Action, a campus ministry for athletes. Through the weekly bible studies, meetings, and retreats she felt that she was reintroduced to Christ and began to actively seek Him in her life.
"Gradually with the injuries I was beginning to see the light and see that I wasn't just the sport I played," she said. "I gradually gave it up to Him with each surgery but it wasn't until it was completely taken away that I was fully able to give it up to Him."
Patterson officially retired from golf last fall. She recalls the moment she finally agreed to medically retire as "the moment I felt the most peace that I have ever experienced in my entire life."
"It was difficult to deal with at first, but knowing that my identity lies in something so much greater than my sport is so satisfying."