Several writers have written about or noted Zach Johnson's faith in trying to find something interesting to say about the Masters Champion. Craig Dolch did it here and of course Dan Jenkins of all people celebrated it in his Golf Digest letter from Augusta.
Well Tom Witosky in the Des Moines Register files a thoughtful piece that starts out sounding like an extended version of the Zach-loves-Jesus theme, but then takes an intriguing turn by pointing out that there is only so much preaching some can take before it could backfire.
Johnson's mention of his Christian faith after winning the Masters on Easter Sunday has stirred discomfort among some believing the separation between church and sport should be as strong as between church and state.
"Religion and sport today has become a mutual exploitation society," said Ray Higgs, professor emeritus of English at East Tennessee State University.
At the same time, Johnson's profession sparked the imagination of those who believe sport and religion can be a positive, powerful combination.
And those who know Johnson, 31, say his faith is as much a part of him as is the ability to hit a five-iron within 10 feet of the cup.
"There is no pretense, no hidden agenda, no proselytizing" with Johnson, said Kay Bloom, his former theology teacher at Cedar Rapids Regis High School. "Ultimately, he is owning his faith and he simply shared it with everyone."
"It is really a fine line and you have to be careful from a marketing point of view," said Rick Horrow, a nationally known expert on sports marketing and professional athletics.
"Zach Johnson genuinely has to be himself, and that includes his strong faith," Horrow said. "But he has to watch out that people don't think he is preaching to them."
Chapman Clark, a professor at the Fuller Theological Seminary in California, said Johnson and those surrounding him will have to adjust to that reality quickly.
"My suggestion is that he get himself some sharp people to help him develop his message so that it doesn't come across as exploitative," Clark said.
Paging the LPGA's brand coach!
Higgs, the East Tennessee State professor emeritus, has written several books and articles on religion and sport, including "God in the Stadium: Sports and Religion in America."
He believes the potential tension involved in tying religion to sport has grown as American culture fixated on sports success - as opposed to sports excellence. The emphasis on winning, he said, has turned people away from the value of athletics to focus on victory and money.
"The truth of the matter is there is no correlation between victory and virtue," Higgs said.