Woods Could Reduce Others' Handicaps

Article excerpt

Sixty-seven, 69, 73, 68, 70, 70, 68, 69, 64, 67, 72. So toiled Tiger Woods in his first three weeks on the job as a Professional Golfers' Association tournament player. His scores -- 23 under par -- placed him 60th, 11th and 5th in the opening three events. At 20 he's breathtakingly talented, having pulled off what neither Bobby Jones nor Jack Nicklaus achieved: winning three consecutive U.S. Amateurs.

His $60 million in Nike and Titleist endorsement deals aside, Woods is the sports story of the year. What's the competition, Dennis Rodman's hair dyes or Cigar beating milkhorses?

Huge galleries trek after Woods, attracted as much by his innate wholesomeness as his stylish swing. After scoring a hole in one in his first tournament, Woods cheerily tossed his ball greenside to a fan.

Beyond money and talent, in which Woods is awash, there's the issue of race: a minority athlete suddenly the center of attention in a sport with nearly all white professionals at mostly all white clubs in tournaments sponsored by white-run corporations.

Can Woods alter that? Does he want to? To the second question, it appears yes. Bill Dickey, president of the National Minority Junior Golf Scholarship Association, based in Phoenix, reports that Woods has committed himself to giving clinics and exhibitions for minority kids. Dickey, a 68-year-old volunteer who goes back to the era of such black golfing legends as Ted Rhodes and Bill Spiller, has awarded more than $400,000 in scholarships since 1985.

That figure could be much higher, he believes, and so could the investments of time and mentoring needed to open the sport to black children. "Tiger will create a lot of interest," Dickey says, "but we need to have an organized structure to get minority kids to the golf courses, driving ranges or fields where they can learn the game.

Who should take the lead? "Black folks," states Dickey. "We have over 400 black social clubs in America. They meet and have golf events for their members. We need these clubs to start programs in their communities."

Allies are on hand. The PGA works with Dickey's group as well as the National Police Athletic League and the National Black College Golf Coaches Association. …