The editors of Minority Golf Magazine are currently preparing a series of articles attempting to bring an understandable answer to the question why Charlie Sifford’s legacy and the rise of Tiger Woods’ dominance of American golf has not resulted in more African American males on the PGA Tour.
With the presence and great play from many of today’s young professionals, we thought it noteworthy to revisit an old interview with Tiger Woods dating back over ten years. At the time names like Dustin Johnson, Ricky Fowler, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Rory McElroy, Jordan Spieth, and Bubba Watson were still playing junior golf and dealing with middle school.
“He laughs with you now, raising his eyebrows and flashing that grand-slam smile and letting you in on the joke. He never used to do that, either.
He gets it now. All of it. The achievement fourteen Majors, 80 PGA wins, over 100 professional wins world wide, the fame, the responsibility.
Responsibility. His word.
“I have a responsibility to my parents, the fans, the media, my sponsors,” he says. “I have a responsibility, to be honest, and truthful.”
Tiger’s ultimate place in history is perhaps still being written. Notwithstanding his myriad health issues and personal issues surrounding and leading to his divorce, he remains a major figure in golf marketing and golf course design and development and many other commercial and business interests.
Woods doesn’t do quick and slick. He says he tried that, during his first couple of years on the tour, while fighting against those wishing to put him at the center of our sports culture.
“When I first came out on tour, I had been at Stanford with all these brilliant people, all these Olympians, and people are telling me, ‘Everything you do is special?’ ” he says. “And I’m thinking, right! I was very uncomfortable.”
He is critical of the lack of opportunities given young minority, economically disadvantaged golfers.
He says this even though his tournament was held at a private club that, by its owner’s admission, did nothing special for disadvantaged golfers. Proving Woods’ point, Sherwood owner David Murdock is asked if his country club has any programs for disadvantaged golfers.
“No,” he says. “You can’t open it up when it’s a private club.”
“We still have a long way to go,” Woods says.
“[Ben] Hogan once said that the best week he ever had, he only had four perfect shots,” Woods says. “I have yet to get to that higher level.”
He is asked to name one time he would have liked a mulligan.
“Can I have two?” he says, laughing. He talks about his dreams. And they don’t involve a championship.
“I’m telling you, in 10, 15, 20 years, some kid is going to come along who blows me out of the water,” he says. “He’s going to be bigger, stronger, more athletic. He is going to have the talent of a Ken Griffey Jr. or Michael Jordan.
“He is going to say ‘I love basketball, I love baseball, but, you know, golf is a bigger love.”
“I want to be able to look back and say anybody who wants to compete in golf can do it, just like basketball, baseball or track,” he says. “That’s not the case now. There are not enough programs now. The impoverished kids can’t play.”
He talks about how growing up the son of a retired military man and housewife in Cypress, he was the best junior golfer in town and still had trouble feeling accepted.
“We would go out of town to big tourneys, but because of hotel costs we could only afford to show up the night before the event,” he says. “I would say, ‘Dad, I feel left behind’ because we could not even afford to get there in time for a practice round.”
Woods laments that, despite advancements made because of his achievements, most aspiring young inner-city golfers are still left behind.
“In the process of change, a lot of kids are missing the boat,” he says. “It eats at me that a lot of kids have talent and interest, but don’t have the money to play.”