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Woods Draws Thousands at Tourney

May 21, 2000

ALVESLOHE, Germany (AP) _ Tiger Woods may be a real ace for golf’s future in Germany.

The American star helped draw 62,000 spectators to the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open, about 20,000 more than the last time the event was held near Hamburg two years ago.

``This year’s tremendous, I’ve never seen it like this. There’s no doubt, it’s Tiger-mania,″ said Brian Wolinsky, Titleist’s sales manager in northern Germany, who has been at the last six tournaments.

The crowds were filled with teen-agers and children, who came to see an athlete who has become a staple in German teen magazines and other youth-oriented media, even if golf still ranks behind ski jumping and badminton in popularity.

In Germany, there are just 380,000 registered golfers, most of them graying and wealthy. There are just five public courses in the country. Private clubs charge initiation fees of $10,000-$50,000, with yearly fees of some $1,500.

But at the Deutsche Bank, young people were all over the Gut Kaden course, waving ``Tiger″ signs and waiting to see their favorite golfer _ perhaps the only one they know by name.

``He’s just the best _ and he’s young,″ said Simon Patzwald, 15.

``And he looks cool,″ added Jury Gebel, his friend.

Now the two youths, both soccer players, say they want to take up golf after following Woods for two days.

That could be good news for golf’s equipment manufacturers in Germany, where growth remains steady at about 10 percent yearly, even after Bernhard Langer gave the sport a boost by winning two Masters.

The market for golf goods is still around $50 million-$60 million a year, a pittance compared to the United States even in a country that is Europe’s wealthiest.

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