Golfers Remember Woods Father-Son Duo
CYPRESS, Calif. (AP) _ Paul Traughber remembers the day a kid named Tiger Woods showed up to play in an 18-and-under golf tournament.
The tournament scout had invited the scrawny 14-year-old to participate in the annual event after watching him play on a school team. ``You’re going to remember this kid because he’s named after an animal,″ Traughber recalls the scout saying.
Woods took fourth place. The next year, he won. The third year, his father, Earl Woods, said he wouldn’t be playing again.
``I went to his house to ask why and Earl said, ‘You know, Tiger’s on a career path. He can’t do any better than he’s already done _ he’s already won,``’ Traughber recalled. ``He didn’t want any setbacks for Tiger.″
Players on the golf courses where a young Tiger Woods grew up remembered the star’s father above all for his kind but firm discipline as his son rose to stardom. Earl Woods died Wednesday at his Cypress home after a prolonged battle with prostate cancer. He was 74.
``Earl always did a great job with that kid in molding his mind and personality,″ said Michael Keith, a PGA apprentice at the Dad Miller Golf Course where Tiger played in high school. ``That’s all Earl ever did. I think they had a great relationship. His dad was his whole life.″
Many fellow golfers recalled watching Tiger putt ball after ball with his father on the greens, starting at the age of 5. The pair kept to themselves, they said, but father and son were always polite _ even after Tiger became famous.
Tiger often hit balls on the local courses for hours as a teenager, buying $2 buckets of golf balls with quarters he won from other players during putting games. His father, however, wouldn’t let him play until he’d finished his homework.
``I’ve got a lot of respect for him the way Tiger’s come out,″ said Bill Huss, a 64-year-old PGA pro who’s played at the Dad Miller course for 22 years. ``The old man would get on him a little bit and keep him straight.″
One of Tiger’s first coaches, John Anselmo, said some people questioned the way Earl Woods handled his son. Anselmo, who coached Tiger from age 10 to 20, said the elder Woods was ``like a psychiatrist″ who could keep everything about his son, including his emotions, in check.
``He was a human being,″ Anselmo, now 85, said. ``There was a lot of talk about him, but he was right about everything he said. I agreed with him, because I could see the future of this young man (Tiger).″
Keith said that when Tiger played at Dad Miller, crowds of reporters would gather. The course was finally forced to put up signs that read ``Spectators are restricted to paved and concrete areas adjacent to clubhouse.″ One still hangs above the counter in the pro shop.
Down the road, at the Navy Golf Course, players said they seldom saw Tiger, but often played with his father. The course, which is attached to the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base, is restricted to military veterans.
``We were so impressed with how well he did with his son. We asked him how he did it,″ said Art Valenzuela, 73, of Garden Grove. ``He told us how Tiger used to come over that fence over there as a kid and pretend he was in the Masters.″
Another golfer, Tom Wright, said he recalled seeing Tiger and his father practicing at a 3-hole course in Long Beach in the late 1970s or early 1980s. It wasn’t until years later, when Tiger was famous, that he realized who they were.
``Earl was pretty pointed in his comments″ even at Tiger’s young age, Wright recalled. ``He was an excellent teacher. He saw things in his swing that you’re not liable to see even if you had a camera pointed at him.″
Associated Press Writer Lynn Elber contributed to this report.