The Lady and the Tiger: Stanford Gets Eldrick and Dominique

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The Lady And The Tiger: Stanford Gets Eldrick and Dominique.

by Mary-Christine Phillip

These are among the best of times for a pair of African American athletes who have shattered and tied records in sports not generally associated with folks of their hue.

During one weekend in late August, Eldrick "Tiger" Woods and Dominique Dawes made history. Woods literally beat his way out of the bushes to become the youngest winner in the 99-year history of the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship in Florida. Dominique Dawes made her mark by clinching five gold medals at the recent U.S. national gymnastic championships held in Nashville.

The fact that Woods, 18, and Dawes, 17, are the first African Americans to achieve such blazing success in their respective sports can be a blessing and a curse, observers say. Among the blessings are ample opportunities to excel. The curses: constant public scrutiny and the ever-present danger of bad decisions--maladies that have sent many a contemporary athlete into a tailspin.

Already the duo are beginning to count their blessings. Both have won full scholarships to Stanford University, an institution with a long-standing reputation for academic and athletic excellence.

Stanford's scholarship offers were based on the two students' academic as well as their athletic records. Woods, who carried a 3.8 grade point average in high school, along with his golf clubs, starts classes this fall. Dawes, who carried a 3.7 GPA while tumbling her way to the top, has delayed classes until "1995-96 because I want to compete in the world championships."

Both Woods and Dawes, as would be expected, have created excitement and high expectations at Stanford.

"Tiger is the best golfer to come out of high school since Jack Nicklaus, and there were about 200 schools interested in him," says Stanford spokesman Scott McConnell. "He could have gone to any school, but he chose Stanford. The same is true for Dominique."

Woods, who stands a tad over six feet and hails from Cypress, CA, agrees. "I could have gone to a number of schools, but I chose Stanford because I realize there's more to life than golf. I want to be a better person, and I want a good education."

For the five-foot-tall Dawes, from Silver Spring, MD, the thought was the same. Before Stanford came calling, offers poured in from many schools. She had been interested in Southern universities: Auburn, University of Georgia and University of Alabama.

But, "when Stanford made the offer, I really started to think seriously about my future. I visited the campus, looked into their academic programs and felt good. I will benefit by going there."

Team Spirit

Woods' name will go on the Havemayer Trophy, alongside those of former U.S. Amateur champions such as Jack Nicklaus, one of five golfers to win the prestigious U.S. Amateur at age 19. Woods is the only three-time U.S. Junior golf champion. By winning the U.S. Amateur Championship, he also became the first player in the tournament's history to win after trailing by six holes. He had to scramble between trees and rally to beat his opponent, Oklahoma State University junior Trip Kuehne.

Dawes' first-place sweep in the all-around national gymnastic competition that included the vault, balance beam, uneven parallel bars, floor exercise and individual exercise, makes her the top women's national champion. The last time an American woman accomplished such a feat was in 1969.

Understandably, Stanford University women's gymnastic coach Brett Greenwood expressed disappointment that Dawes will not be enrolling this fall.

Nonetheless, he says, "Dominique will be the greatest gymnast to ever enter college, and that will mean so much to our program. Kids like her, and will follow her to Stanford. There's no doubt that she will help to draw other top-level athletes. She's so popular and such a star, attendance to the sport of gymnastics will be phenomenal. …