A sports hero for all


I’m not a sports fanatic, by any stretch of the imagination. On Super Bowl Sunday, according to my husband, Jim, I’m one of only five people across the globe who aren’t tuned in. March Madness rarely fazes me. Auto racing bores me. Boxing and wrestling repulse me. Baseball is fun, as long as I’m in the stands. On TV, it lulls me to sleep.

But Masters Sunday found me glued to the set, even though I knew Tiger Woods was poised for victory. I also did the unthinkable. I called my sons (who’d been playing an agreeable game of catch in the yard) inside TO WATCH TELEVISION. I wanted them, along with their teen-age sister, to witness Tiger Woods donning the green jacket. This was more than the outcome of a sporting event. It was history.

Although, I don’t play and probably never will, I have a strong interest in golf. Golf has been much more than a game to my family. It is my husband’s passion as well as his career. For over 15 years, Jim’s been an administrator for the Carolinas Professional Golfers’ Association. Before that, he played golf professionally on mini-tours. He came close to qualifying for the PGA Tour, but our marriage plans prompted him to seek a more secure way of life.

As one whose fashion sense leans toward blue jeans, hoop earrings, and clogs (never lime green skorts, visors, and saddle shoes) I am far from your typical golf fan. But through my husband’s association with the sport, I’ve come to know and appreciate golf’s traditions, integrity, and the many good people devoted to the game. I have had the good fortune of attending Ryder Cup Matches, The PGA Championship, and the Masters, events I will never forget. Those experiences and others have proved to me that golf is a sport with the potential to transcend all the barriers (racial, economic, gender) which have tarnished its image in the past. And Tiger Woods’ astonishing performance on the golf course is just the beginning of golf’s new age and new direction.

Woods and golf deserve each other. Woods’ demeanor on the course, his grace under pressure, his intelligence serve the game well. Golf by its very nature is a test of character, and Woods has proven himself time and again. While golfers are rarely flamboyant, they are also rarely obnoxious, and, unlike some of the more notorious sports heroes of late, Woods is the epitome of gentleman. He appears to be the sort of young man every parent would be proud of.

In an age in which celebrities are placed under a microscope of media scrutiny, Woods remains unblemished. Those who meet him remark about his unassuming ways, his devotion to his family and to the sport he loves. My sister-in-law, Glenda Hood, mayor of Orlando, Florida, where Woods now resides, speaks highly of Woods and his active involvement in a junior golf program for minority children there.

In his comments after his win at Augusta, Woods remarked that he owed a lot to the black golfers, in particular Lee Elder and Charlie Sifford, whose accomplishments and trials paved the way for him. How fitting that Woods should be the first African American to win the prestigious Masters, indeed any major golf championship. Golf is a sport that honors tradition, and Woods, while breaking records, did not fail to honor the sacrifices and courage of his predecessors who broke barriers.

As one who worries about too much pressure placed on children nowadays, I admit to feeling a little uneasy about Woods’ youth, his parents’ prodding, and his precocious beginnings. But after witnessing Woods’ gifted performance on the course, his parents’ affection and devotion, obviously reciprocal, and his level-headed ways, I can’t bring myself to criticize his upbringing. Who can find fault in that tearful bear hug father and son shared after Augusta’s record-breaking finish?

All evidence suggests that Tiger Woods is a gifted golfer whose impact on the sports world is just beginning. Through his phenomenal talent and dedication, he’s worthier of recognition and praise than any current sports figure I can name. Yes 50 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional sports, we have a new leader