A Hug for Dad
by Coach Gary Overton

A father’s relationship with his son is about being positive, dreaming, and then taking steps to achieve those dreams. It’s about the teaching of overcoming obstacles and about giving, sharing and caring for others. It’s the instruction of standing up and being counted for what you believe in, being a spokesperson and a role model, but more important, being an inspiration.

We've seen this all before – a fabulous shot at the back of a green from out of the shadows, the red shirt on a Sunday with a major on the line, the stylistic fist pump when the ball drops in the hole, a championship at the Masters for Tiger Woods. Behind all of this was a very loving, caring and supportive father.

Cheers and hugs were the order of the moment in the gathering dusk at the back of the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club, where Woods wrapped his arms around caddie Steve Williams. Woods' father, Earl, was in town but too ill to come to the golf course, so he got his hug from a distance. Tiger dedicated the victory to his 73-year-old father, who was the first person he hugged after winning his first major also at the Masters in 1997. His father would later say that hug was an unspoken symbol of mutual respect and acknowledgment of all that goes into accomplishing a goal.

"This is for Dad," said Woods, blinking as his eyes filled with tears.” "I can't wait to get back to the house and give him a big bear-hug," Tiger said.

Earl Woods was the first African-American baseball player in the Big Eight Conference but he gave up baseball to pursue an education. He served two tours of duty as a Green Beret in Vietnam where he met and befriended a colleague named Tiger for whom his famous son is named. He retired with the rank of Colonel in 1974 and then served as a mentor for Tiger’s golf and academic careers to culminate his life’s work. Earl Woods is a man who displayed much leadership for his son from birth through the conclusion of Tiger’s amateur career without interfering or being seen as the primary figure. Woven throughout Earl’s teachings are memories of his mother and the lessons she imparted about family, faith and hard work all of which helped Earl nurture and guide his son’s talents. Since turning professional Tiger’s father has taken a back seat, allowing his son to grow and mature professionally by experience.

It nearly didn't happen this time, of course, not until playing a total of 28 holes, with Chris DiMarco working the greens with his unorthodox claw grip and his steely nerves. It's true that Woods probably made the eternal highlight reel with his 25-foot chip-in from the fringe on the back of the 16th green as the ball broke about as far as it could, but it's also true he bogeyed the last two holes in regulation.

As for the loser, DiMarco has much going for him also. Since he has now reached playoffs in the last two majors, at last year's PGA Championship and now the Masters, DiMarco has made himself a force to be reckoned with. But that's a level where Woods has been operating for years, since his first Masters title. The inevitable question for Woods since his most recent victory in a major at the 2002 U.S. Open was this: What was wrong with him? The implication was that something had to be wrong if Woods wasn't winning majors.

With that being said, we may or may not be back to the old days, when Tiger ruled and his green jackets were all the rage. But that's the Tiger Woods that Earl raised so well, and it was unfortunate Earl Woods wasn't on hand to see his son in person at the back of the 18th green Sunday because of his lingering heart problems. Such is a tribute to Earl Woods the man who has shown us the powerful role of family and the importance of bonds between fathers and sons in any sporting field. Chances are good though, that it wasn't long before Tiger was telling him all about it, right after they gave each other a great big hug.
Coach Gary Overton