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,"
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.