“Linda Miller: Quiet Lady in the Limelight,” Ensign, June 1978, 50–51
The audience applauded when golf star Johnny Miller was introduced, and afterward a seemingly endless line of fans waited as he signed autographs. His wife, Linda, looked for a comfortable seat in the lobby to wait out the autograph seekers. It took hours—but she didn’t complain. “It’s part of the job,” she says with a smile.
Out for an evening alone, the Millers have long since gotten used to the less-than-subtle whispers that accompany their entrance wherever they go. “There he is.” “Look how tall he is.” “Isn’t she pretty?” “Look how friendly they are—he just waved at somebody. They’re just like regular people!”
For a young Latter-day Saint wife and mother, life in the public eye can pose some real problems. People seem to be watching everything Linda does. Once she went into a fabric store to buy ribbon for a tablecloth she wanted to weave—and everything in the store stopped as clerks and patrons alike watched her choose the ribbon, buy it, and hurry out of the store. “So many people scrutinize what I buy in the grocery store,” Linda says ruefully, “that sometimes I want to make a public statement right in the checkout line: ‘Now hear this! I have four small children to feed, a husband with a big appetite, and a lot of company. I really need this much food!’”
And because the Millers are members of the Church, they feel keenly the importance of showing nonmembers the best possible view of gospel living. “We were in a restaurant one day,” Linda remembers. “We’d been traveling, and we were tired and hungry, and the waitress seemed to be taking forever to get to us. The children were misbehaving and my patience was just exhausted.”
But the Millers were very much aware that other people were watching—as usual. “If I let my impatience show, a stranger who saw us might conclude that we didn’t enjoy our family life, so I made an extra effort to be pleasant. I wouldn’t want anyone to form a wrong conclusion about the Church because of something I said or did.”
Besides the public attention, the life of a professional golfer’s family can be trying. In the first years of their marriage, during the Professional Golf Association season, Linda called ahead every week to find out Church meeting times in the city they would be in that Sunday—and then, because her husband, when he was able to attend, was frequently called to the stand, she spent many meetings taking care of the children alone. During some years their small children scarcely attended Sunday School twice in the same ward for weeks on end; and because there are few Latter-day Saint families in the world of golf, the children often felt left out as the children of the other golfers went for a Sunday afternoon swim.
How does Linda Miller handle the strains? “Well, I’ve learned that it depends largely on my own attitude,” she says. “If I feel grumpy or sorry for myself, things don’t go well. And if I take my troubles out on John, it can even affect his golf game.”
The changes in her life brought by her husband’s success in his profession have also helped Linda grow, she finds. Linda is “pretty shy,” and loves being at home—so when she was invited to come along with her husband to speak at firesides she routinely turned the invitations down. Then, on one tour, “I read The Miracle of Forgiveness. I was deeply impressed with the statement that the Lord is displeased with those who are not willing to bear witness of him, and refuse to share the knowledge and testimonies they have.” Since that time she has accepted every opportunity to bear her testimony. “It was a difficult change for me to make, but I feel that I have grown from it.”
The strong testimony of the gospel that Linda and her husband share makes a powerful difference in their lives. “Frankly, I don’t know how we would get along without the Church.” Many athletes do not place the same emphasis on the family that John and Linda do. “Because the family is not thought to be of value by so many in the sports world, when long periods of separation and inevitable temptations come, many of these people are without the perspectives necessary to hold their families together.”
For several years, the Millers have been one of the most successful golfing families in the world—and success itself poses dangers, Linda says. “It can give a person a deceptive sense of internal self-sufficiency. When a person feels that he can succeed through his own efforts, he sometimes loses that reliance on the Lord that is necessary to keep his life in alignment.”
Large amounts of money bring subtle changes of attitude, unless a person is careful, the Millers have observed. “It is difficult to maintain a spiritual balance because of the feeling that everything can be bought. There is a danger of replacing vital spiritual experiences with uplifting—and purchaseable—cultural experiences, such as beautiful art and music. These are good—but no replacement for the happiness of living the gospel, which money just can’t buy.”
Despite the trials of being constantly in the public eye, Linda is grateful for the opportunities that have come to them to share the gospel with others. Usually, when a Mormon does something wrong “his religion will be in the headlines along with his mistakes.” The Millers have had a chance to put their faith in the gospel in the headlines, not because of mistakes, but because of outstanding, exemplary success.
“When John won the U.S. Open a few years ago,” Linda recalls, “President Lee wrote him a letter which has been invaluable to us. He quoted the scripture that teaches us that where much is given, much is required. Then he counseled John to follow Paul’s advice to Timothy: ‘Be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation [manner of life], in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.’ [1 Tim. 4:12.] We try to pattern our lives after that counsel.”