Here Comes 'Tiger' Woods

By Collier, Aldore | Ebony, November 1991 | Go to article overview
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Here Comes 'Tiger' Woods

Collier, Aldore, Ebony

Eldrick (Tiger) Woods works on his burger and fries in a Southern California coffee shop while waiting with his father, Earl, for yet another interview to begin. He is neither excited nor annoyed. Though only 15, he has done hundreds of interviews over the last decade.

At age 6, he was an international sensation, a grade-school golfer who miraculously hit a hole in one--reportedly, the youngest person ever to accomplish that feat. He has been swinging clubs since the age of 11 months and winning trophies since the age of 3. Earlier this year, Woods became the first Black and the youngest player ever to win the U.S. Junior Amateur Golfing Championship.

For Tiger, who got his nickname because of his agile moves on the golf course, golfing came right after walking. His relationship withe the sport dates back to when he was a toddler in a high chair watching his father, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, hit practice golf balls at his Cypress, Calif., home. One day, the older Woods observed his 11-month-old son hitting golf balls into a net. By the age of 3, Tiger was competing against and defeating adults.

Before winning the U.S. title, Tiger spent late spring and early summer amassing even more trophies. He took top individual honors in the California High School Championships and won the Los Angeles Junior Golfing Championship. Tiger's average is 71 and his best ever is a 63.

According to Guy Yocom, technical editor of Golf Digest magazine, Tiger is in the top 3 percent of all golfers. "There is no perfect score; the lower the score, the better," Yocom says. "But to shoot a 63, especially at his age, is phenomenal. He has lots of raw talent."

Besides raw talent, he has a game plan. "I want to be the Mchael Jordan of golf," he says. "That means being responsible, handling the media well, being a superb athlete and being kind to people. That about wraps it up."

Though Jordan is a role model, Tiger's goal is to be better than the man he feels is the best ever in the golfing game--Jack Nicklaus. "I'd just like to beat some of his records," he says. "He's the greatest of all time. It's kind of nice to beat the records he made when he was young. Like, I beat his record at the age when he shot 69. He shot 69 when he was 13. I did it when I was 12. He played in the U.S. Amateur when he was 15. So did I. He won the U.S. Amateur when he was 19. I won this year. I've got plenty of years to go. I'm just pacing myself to see if I can beat his records."

Tiger has tried a number of sports, but golf has remained his life. "Every once in a while I get bored. Then I take a break," he says. "Last year, I did it for three weeks. Then school started. When school starts, I usually leave my golf clubs at home. But, golf never wears me down."

Tiger is a sophomore at a high school in Anaheim, Calif., taking honors classes and sporting a 3.5 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. His father and his Thailand-born wife Kultida have never had to push Tiger to do anything.

"I try to get Tiger to read, but never have to push, "Woods says. "He is totally self-responsible. I never ask him if his homework is done. He learns that discipline from golf. When he was a little boy, I asked him, 'Who's responsible for you missing that shot? Was it the club? Was it the noise? No, it was you. Whose responsibility is it for you to play golf? Yours. And it's your responsibility to do your lesson, isn't it?' That's it. He got it right there. That was when he was 6 or 7. I've never disciplined him. His mother doesn't either. I treat him like a young adult. He learns everything from golf."

Tiger smiles at his father and adds: "My mom is always on my case. She's always saying [in a mocking female voice], 'Have you brushed your teeth? Have you brushed your hair? Have you done this? Have you done that?'"

Woods accompanies his son to the approximately 30 tournaments he participates in annually.

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