When I was a little-bitty girl, I’d go with my daddy when he went to the driving range on Kingston Pike in Knoxville, Tennessee, to improve his golf swing. He loved golf and he was pretty good at it.
I liked golf. I liked going to the driving range with Daddy and he even let me take some swings at that little white pocked ball balanced on a wooden peg called a “tee.” I hit it a few times, but not too far. Daddy was very patient with me. He never scolded or fussed if I didn’t swing the club right. He’d just say, “Let’s try that again.”
He introduced me to miniature golf and I was hooked. In fact, I was a good miniature golfer. Our whole family played and we had great times. You don’t see so many miniature golf courses nowadays except maybe at tourist spots. They usually have dinosaurs or wild animals created to make the course exciting. Some of the layouts are totally fun with waterfalls and streams and all sorts of sound effects.
Back in 1978, I used to watch an afternoon talk show called The Mike Douglas Show. One afternoon, a pint-sized guest called Tiger Woods was brought out onto the stage along with his father, Earl Woods. It seems this little boy was a golf genius at not quite three years old. I remember Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart were the other guests. They were blown away by this child.
I was enthralled by this little kid. He wasn’t much of a conversationalist to say the least, but he could hit a golf ball dead on with his little club. Time after time, he smacked that ball with precision, never missing. I found it hard to believe that a child this small could be so talented in a game like golf. But he was.
When he was 5, he made an appearance on a show with football legend, Fran Tarkenton called “That’s Incredible” and once again, he showed how much of a child prodigy he was when it came to golf. His father saw this early on and set out to show the world how incredible his son was.
As time went on, the sports world began to notice Tiger. He started playing as a professional golfer at the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1996. In 1997, as a short and pudgy young man of 21, he won his first Masters Tournament. He won by a record 12 shots. It was only six years before that no person of color was even allowed to play at the Augusta National. This 21-year-old upstart of a mixed race brought his phenomenal talent to the front. He went on to win 14 major tournaments before his career took a definite downward spiral.
The young man who won the hearts of people around the world and made fans of the game because they loved to see him play fell from grace. His personal life crumbled and his marriage fell apart. He was found to have countless mistresses and it appeared that he was abusing substances.
He lost his ability to play the game he loved. He had back problems which led to four major surgeries. His whole life was a mess. But somehow, he managed to pull himself up by the bootstraps and slowly start to come back.
Last Sunday, he won the Masters for the fifth time. He hadn’t won a major tournament since 2008. My husband and I were in Perry, Georgia to help celebrate our first grandchild’s birthday. The Masters Tournament was on and we always watch the Masters.
On that Saturday, I was excited to see a much healthier and obviously happier Tiger Woods playing at the Masters. I have always had an affinity for this young man. As it was, he was behind by several strokes by the end of play on Saturday.
My son-in-law Will got up to record the Sunday event because storms were threatening to shorten the play. We started watching when it was an hour behind. Tiger began to move up in the standings. I began to get just a wee bit hopeful for a possible win.
As providence would have it, the tournament was not delayed. Tiger moved into a tie for first place, and as the gods smiled on this young man, he rose from seemingly impossible odds and went on to victory.
In 2002, when Tiger Woods won the Masters, our whole family was at a hospital in Macon welcoming Jeffrey Ray (our first grandchild) into the world. Now 17 years later Tiger Woods, on Jeffrey’s birthday wins the Masters again. How cool is that?