Cecilie Lundgreen, known as CC, is a Norwegian professional golfer. As she was climbing the ranks of European pro golfers, she lost several loved ones in a short space of time. She became friends with two Mormon women golfers from Africa, her coach Reeve Nield and golf pro Laurette Maritz, who offered her a glimpse of the Gospel. CC was baptized in 2002, shortly after she also lost her mother whose support she credits for her success. With Reeve and Laurette, CC runs a non-profit called Eyes4Zimbabwe, which provides cataract surgery, and life-saving food and supplies for impoverished families in Zimbabwe, where CC lives part of every year. Her faith in Jesus Christ is the center of her life, and she feels she represents Him as she continues to compete on the green.
Tell me about your journey to becoming a professional golfer.
I grew up in Norway in a troubled home with loud voices, alcohol, and abuse. When I was eleven years old, my mother finally left my father. That summer I spent most of my time with my grandparents. My grandfather told me I’d better learn to play golf, and off we went. Golf changed my life. I quickly took to the sport, practiced hard and started to represent my club. I represented Norway for the first time when I was 15 in the ‘unofficial’ World Championships in Italy. It was awesome and I decided I wanted to play more.
Through golf, I could bring a measure of pride and recognition to my family, since in my small hometown everyone knew our troubles. I began to dream of life as a professional golfer. My mother let me spend summers without a job if I worked hard at golf, extended myself, and developed the talent others saw. Dedication, hard work, and a lot of practice finally paid off when I was granted a scholarship to Florida Atlantic University in America to further my education—and my golf.
It was hard, at age nineteen, to leave my mother and fly across the world to attend university. She had raised me with all the love she could give and had taught me to be levelheaded. But she was not religious. We never attended church, and religion was never spoken of, so I didn’t really believe in anything or anyone. Most of my extended family were atheists, so no one spoke of religion or of Heavenly Father—except Grandma Lundgreen, who kept reminding us that the Lord is kind. At the time, I just laughed it off.
I attended school for five years while playing golf and having a fantastic life.
I was such a ‘hot shot’ and played great golf, had the opportunity to travel the world as an amateur for Norway and met so many amazing people. I thought I was on my way to stardom! And I was. For a while.
What led you to start thinking about religion?
Over the next several years, life seemed to be made of tragedy. The grandfather who taught me to play golf died when I was seventeen, and I was angry. Then a young golfer I knew died from cancer, and a friend’s seven-year-old daughter was struck by lightning while playing on the playground with her brother, suffering permanent physical damage. My best friend died just before her twenty-second birthday from an undetected birth defect.
I was furious! People I cared deeply about were dying all around me. I did not understand why, and I was desperate to find out what happened to them. Where did they go? Would I ever see them again? What was the meaning of all this? It seemed no one could give me the answers. I was heartbroken. During my first year in Florida, my father died after a battle with liver cancer caused by his alcoholism. I was angry with him and with the world in general. I struggled to find meaning in it all.
I joined the ‘Ladies European Tour’ after receiving my bachelor’s degree, and focused on my BIG goal, to be the Top Female Golfer in the World! I know, cheesy when you think of it—wanting to be the best in the world. However, it kept me focused and serious about my ‘job’ as a golf professional. I soon became the “famous golfer” in Norway. I’ll admit I loved receiving so much positive recognition from so many people.
Then I met my two Mormon angels, Reeve and Laurette. Laurette was a professional golfer from South Africa and Reeve was her golf coach from Zimbabwe. We soon became good friends. When I started touring Europe, my mother and stepfather often traveled to watch me play. My mom saw Reeve giving Laurette a putting lesson one day and said, ‘‘Please teach my daughter how to putt! She is useless at it!” So, through my mother’s inspiration, Reeve became my coach.
Reeve, Laurette, and I were sitting at a friend’s kitchen table one day when the subject came up of faith and what we believed. I had quite a few things to say! I spilled out my feelings about how I didn’t believe in anything, and how there was no God because if there was, how could He make such horrible things happen to me and my family, and by the way, where is my dad now and my best friend who died much too early? Reeve listened patiently, and then she gently shared what they believed as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I knew very little about the Mormons and had no interest in learning more. Remember, I was going to be rich and famous – the TOP GOLFER IN THE WORLD! So I didn’t have much time for any gospel. I was ranked 28th in Europe at the time, and I was moving up! Since my childhood had been such a struggle, these goals had been my incentive. Silly me.
My friendship with Reeve and Laurette grew, and we started traveling together. They sometimes shared their faith with me. I felt the Spirit strongly when she spoke, but I was too afraid to say anything. I began to feel remorse for some things I had done when I was younger, and my anger toward my father who had “ruined my life” disappeared as I heard about forgiveness and moving on. I also learned of God’s great love for all mankind and about how He wants us to conduct our lives. It all made me feel so good.
But fame and fortune were still at the top of my list.
I eventually visited Reeve in Zimbabwe. While there, I experienced, learned, watched, and felt. Family home evening was my favorite time. They enjoyed each other’s company, shared spiritual thoughts, played, laughed, and were one big happy family. It was marvelous! During the first one I attended, Reeve’s four-year-old niece was conducting and exclaimed, ‘‘…and CC is giving the opening prayer!’’ I panicked, not remembering having ever said a prayer before. I was saved when her three-year-old sister shouted, “No, I want to say it!” Phew…. Little did I know there would also be a closing prayer. When I heard, “…CC will say the closing prayer,” I looked around for someone to rescue me. All I saw were folded arms and closed eyes. So I said my first prayer, amazed at the feeling that came over me as I did so. I even attended the Mormon church and had to admit I began to enjoy it.
I began looking at life in a different light. Things seemed brighter. I smiled more and became a kinder person. My life was changing, and I wasn’t sure how to deal with it. My mom eventually asked what I was up to. When I told her, her response was: “Well, Cecilie, I believe your head is on straight. So I will support whatever decision you make. I trust you.” The rest of my family gave me a hard time, but Mom’s words warmed and comforted my heart. How grateful I was for her!
Then something happened that I certainly hadn’t planned. My mother suddenly got sick. My life was in turmoil. I turned to the Lord, I pleaded and prayed, begged and cried for Him to grant me this one wish—to save my mother.
The doctors tried everything to help her, but nothing changed her condition. Then one day, as I knelt in prayer in my living room, I knew that I had to let her go. But instead of rage, my newfound knowledge gave me a peaceful feeling. I knew I would see her again one day. I held my mother’s hand as they turned off the respirator and she left us. She was fifty-seven years old, a victim of a brain aneurism.
I was mourning, I was distraught, and I felt lost in many ways. Yet I knew I had found the greatest joy in my life, the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this hard and humble time, I developed a strong testimony. Its power, its kindness, its perfectness. Two weeks after my mother’s funeral, I was baptized. A day I will always remember.
For about 6 months I didn’t play golf. I hated it! I had lost so much time with my mother because of that stupid golf game of mine. Yet, my mom had sacrificed so much so that I would have the opportunity to travel and play golf. Whenever I saw a golf course, I cried. Whenever I tried to go practice or play I cried. Reeve was just tender and gentle about it. She slowly got me back on the golf course letting me know how sad my mom would have been knowing this was my dream and knowing the sacrifice she had made for me to get where I was. I got back on the golf course and decided to take my mom with me on Tour. It was the best decision I ever made.
I am not the number one player in the world right now, and I probably never will be. But I am the best person I can be at this point in my life with golf, with the gospel and with myself. I am very happy just the way things are.
What is your daily training regimen?
My training regimen is different from day to day… depends on where we are and what is needed. In the off season in Zimbabwe, we just go play a round of golf 4-6 days per week, depending on weather and how close we are to the start of the season. I used to play squash, however when my knee started bothering me I started swimming instead. I really liked that so ended up swimming 1 km per day. I felt my body got stronger that way and it helped my golf swing. Lifting weights and going to the gym doesn’t work in golf. Your muscles get too big and bulky and slow releasing of the power. I need slim, long muscles that can act quickly and last for 4-6 hours every day. I stretch a lot and try to stay flexible. Great for the golf game!
Just a childish question: Have you ever been competing with Suzann Pettersen or Tiger Woods?
Tutta (Suzann Pettersen) and I have played together for many years. When we were younger she beat me then I beat her. And then one day… she just took off! Literally as she won the French Open one year and then took off for America and the BIG dream of playing on the LPGA. She has just done amazingly well and represents Norway well also. I see her almost every year during some of our bigger events and then we chat. But since she lives in Orlando and I live everywhere else, I don’t see her much anymore.
I met Tiger Woods in 1994. I played VM individually in Paris at the Norwegian team, Tiger at the American. I met him at a party there and that is the only time. I don’t think he is a good representative for the sport.
What are you doing in your “spare” time?
When I’m at home without a golf tournament on the schedule I like to spend time with friends and family. I laugh a lot and love to make other people laugh. I listen to a lot of music and then I eat a whole lot! I love food! That is my favorite interest I think, after golf of course! I never used to know how to cook but my golf coach, Reeve Nield, taught me. So now I’m in trouble, I want to eat home-cooked, healthy food all the time.
What is it like to be a Christian Mormon in an environment of top professional athletes?
It is actually fun to be different in a very non-religious environment. But I do believe many athletes pray because they so desperately want to succeed and live their dream. I have experienced ignorance, curiosity, shock, and acceptance being a Christian Mormon woman on Tour. They all have their views and they all ‘think’ they know what we believe and how we live. It is actually fun how they think they know more about our religion than we do. Cracks me up! I have experienced golfers who clean up their act, their language and don’t drink or smoke as much when they are around us out of respect. I have been asked if I do not drink of smoke because I’m a professional athlete. And many times YES would be the easy answer, just to avoid the awkwardness or confrontation. However, it is a great missionary opportunity if I tell them why I really don’t drink or smoke. So I tell them the truth! I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints! And I love it!
How can you practice “going to Church” when traveling worldwide?
Wherever I go I find a chapel. (I do have to work some Sundays unfortunately.) There’s no better place to be on a Sunday. I miss my ward in Fredrikstad, I miss the members and my Young Women but I find new friends wherever I go. I keep the Sabbath Day holy if I have to work, by ONLY playing church music and by not spending any money. I would go VERY hungry if I haven’t prepared and bought food on Saturday, and I leave the golf course as soon as I finish. I do not discuss the day ‘at work’ with the coach after my round—that just has to wait until later.
Who are you heroes, in sports and in the Church?
My sporting hero must be Annika Sorenstam. She is a legendary golfer who broke every record and set the bar so high that we all just marveled at what she accomplished! When I first turned Pro, my mom bought her book for me as a gift and told me to read it. The book was called Daring to Succeed! It had a great impact on me.
I have met many members of our church, leaders and the man in the street, and it is hard to choose one person who is my hero. But I must say there are a few people that have had a GREAT impact on my life. Firstly I must say Reeve Nield. She is my golf coach, my manager, my missionary and my best friend. She had more faith in me than I ever had in myself and she taught me to think bigger and do more. Elaine Dalton (former Young Women General President) is another hero of mine. She is an absolutely fantastic human being. And knowing her personally makes me love and respect her even more. Her message is clear and true and it has motivated and molded me into being the Young Women leader I want to be and to strive for. My favorite quote from Sister Dalton is: ‘One virtuous Young Woman, led by the Spirit, CAN change the world!’ That is what I am trying to teach my Young Women. That they, through their testimonies and way of living can change the world! They might not change the WHOLE world, but they can change the world for one person. Someone loved me and believed enough in me to change my world, by introducing me to the gospel and I will forever be grateful for that.
How long do you think you will carry on as a top golfer?
I don’t know how long I will be playing professional golf—as long as I have fun and feel that I can compete at a high level, I will play. But if my Prince Charming shows up tomorrow and asks me to marry him in the Temple, I might leave the golf clubs behind and run!
Besides golf, you have taken a real interest in the situation of blind people in Zimbabwe. Can you tell about your life in that country?
When I’m in Zimbabwe (I live there in the winters) we are up early, we do our exercises and training and then we work with our charity ‘Eyes4Zimbabwe’. I LOVE the Zimbabwean people and I love to help them in any way I can. Eyes4Zimbabwe is trying to bring relief to those who cannot help themselves and to lighten their burden in a troubled world. We find so many people to help, and we do all that we can do to lift their burdens. What a privilege!
Can you tell more about the charity organization Eyes4Zimbabwe that you are running with Reeve and Laurette?
Eyes4Zimbabwe is a non-profit charity organization in Zimbabwe that was started in 1996 by Reeve and Laurette. Reeve Nield who is second generation Zimbabwean, has a great love for her people and wanted to help in any way possible. So after having witnessed a young 12 year old girl receive her sight after a 20 min cataract surgery, she decided to do something to change the lives of thousands of Zimbabweans.
As Reeve and Laurette were walking down the 18th hole of her local golf club in Zimbabwe, Reeve realized that through golf fund raising events they could raise money to purchase the much-needed medical supplies that could help give sight to thousands of Zimbabweans. They found Doctors that were willing to perform the surgeries for free, use of hospital operating rooms were donated for free and nurses spent their free time helping Eyes4Zimbabwe.
Miracles happened before their eyes and blind people began to receive their sight back due to their kind hearts and help.
As sight was given to 4-5 thousand newborns, children, youth and adults, Zimbabwe was in dire straits. There was no food, parents could not afford sending their children to school, and the number of orphans was getting higher and higher. As Eyes4Zimbabwe had received kind help to ship forty-foot containers free of charge, they realized that more could be done. So forty-foot containers were donated and were then filled with food, clothing, medical supplies, medical equipment, school supplies, hygiene supplies etc. that would help the destitute and less fortunate.
Since we are all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints we went to the church and through the Church’s Emergency Relief. We received the ‘miracle porridge’ ATMIT, a food supplement that will boost the immune system and bring strength to a weakening and dying body. Eyes4Zimbabwe is trying to limit the number of orphans by keeping their HIV/AIDS affected parents alive by feeding them ATMIT. In rural clinics, through the dispensaries we are administering ATMIT to all nutritionally vulnerable people regardless of age. It also serves as a vital meal supplement for expectant mothers who await delivery in very difficult conditions at these clinics. We never seem to have adequate quantities of ATMIT. It is a goal of our organization to obtain funding and support to establish a factory locally, which is capable of manufacturing the porridge.
We have several feeding programs around the country which are administered and operated through government schools and rural clinics, we conduct them specifically in nutritionally deficient areas. In the schools we feed all children one meal a day, which increases school attendance and schools have also noted marked improvement in cognitive abilities. In total, we are feeding approximately 4500 children a day during the school terms.
We have also distributed school libraries and school supplies to several underprivileged schools. This includes desks and chairs.
You have now been a member of the church for 12 years. How is your faith today?
After I got baptized, I felt peace and a reason to live. I also found guidance and hope, I loved being part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Trials became easier, and I started welcoming challenges to my faith. I found love and happiness in a completely different form. Sadly, I lost contact with most of my remaining family when I joined the Church, due to their disapproval. But I knew I had found the true church, and I knew I was happy. No one could take that away from me.
Now I live in a home filled with love, peace, happiness, laughter, and the Spirit of the Lord. Life has much more meaning when the Lord is the center of it. I might still travel from continent to continent as a professional golfer. I might still sign autographs and wave to a clapping crowd. But I do it with direction and purpose as a member of the Church and a representative of our Heavenly Father. I am proud to be His daughter.
Grandma Lundgreen was right. The Lord really is kind.
At A Glance
Name: Cecilie "CC" Lundgreen (everyone calls me CC)
Location: Sarpsborg, Norway
Marital History: Single
Occupation: Professional golfer (20 years since I turned Pro!)
Convert to Church?: Baptized Nov. 14, 2002
Schools Attended: I went to the Sports Academy during my high school years in Sarpsborg, then attended Florida Atlantic University on a golf scholarship from 1993-1998. I received a degree in Arts and Education (majored in Elementary Education and minored in the German language).
Languages Spoken at Home: Hmm... I was raised speaking Norwegian (although my father was raised speaking Danish), but I speak Swedish, Danish, English, and German (the "celestial language" according to President Uchtdorf!) as well.
Favorite Hymn: "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," "I Love to See the Temple," "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again"
Personal Website: www.eyes4zimbabwe.org
Interview Produced by Eline Amundson, who first published it on her site MormonKvinner.com in 2014.