Tiger Woods (above), with father Earl in 2001, and with son Charlie in 2021.
ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND | Are today’s young players missing something in their quest to be the next Tiger? Do some of them – and their parents in many instances – see a diet of nonstop golf as the path to an Aladdin’s cave of riches?
Jack Nicklaus said at the start of the week here at the Old Course, site of the 150th Open Championship, that golf never had been in a better place, and that Tiger Woods had taught the latest generation to play at a new level. That much is true. However, that extra whatever-it-is that sets the few and the very few apart would seem to be down to rather more than beating golf balls.
Though most people think that Woods’ 15 major championships were all down to a golf-crazed father in the late Earl Woods, Global Golf Post had a question for arguably the greatest player who has ever lived. How much did his interest in the history of the game, along with the fun he had known in exploring it, fuel his play?
“Especially for me, for a person who’s had to struggle at times for admittance into clubhouses or on to golf courses, it’s been very important,” Woods said. “I maybe understand it from a different historical side, but the message is the same. You have to appreciate everything about this game; how it’s developed and the people who have paved the way to allow us to play in these events; the people who created the energy behind it.”
“Nothing’s ever given to you. You have to go out there and earn it, and I earned it through the dirt. I’m very proud of that.” – Tiger Woods
And, yes, he has taught his 13-year-old son, Charlie, to appreciate the past: “He understands the history of the game because I make it important to understand where this game has come from and to understand his heritage. … And to understand how hard I had to work to get to where I was at. I had to earn it every step of the way.
“Nothing’s ever given to you,” he said. “You have to go out there and earn it, and I earned it through the dirt. I’m very proud of that.”
Bob MacIntyre, Scotland’s top player, is another to have golf in perspective.
Why does he live in Oban when other would-be greats rush to live within half an hour of Heathrow? It’s because he likes to play shinty and because home is where he can “go back to being the 25-year-old that I am.” His buzz or mojo may have gone a-missing in the last few months, but he knew from his first visit to St Andrews “as a wee boy” that this was the place where his dreams could come true.
“It’s so sad,” said Gary Player, “that so many of the latest generation fail to appreciate everything they get out of the game. Do they begin to realize what an honour it is to play at St Andrews? And are they aware of that old Walter Hagen saying about stopping to smell the flowers along the way?
“I’m a farmer at heart and I’ve always noticed everything ‘along the way’. … To give you an example, when I was taken to see the Luton Hoo course in Bedford not so long ago, I got out of the car to walk among the 300-year trees on the driveway and to think about what had gone on in the world since they came into being. All my life, I’ve been as inspired by the things that I see on the way round a course as the course itself. Nothing’s ever given to you,” he said.
On the subject of LIV Golf, with which none of the above approve, Woods clearly wondered how things would work out for those LIV players who have opted for the shortcut from the amateur ranks into the LIV scene.
“What these players are doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practice?” he asked. “You’re just getting paid a lot of money up front and playing a few events, and playing only 54 holes.
“I just don’t see it, the 54 holes — it is almost like a mandate when you get to the senior tour.”
“I love going back and finding myself among familiar places. It’s about talking to everyone and building relationships.” – Jordan Smith
When word got around at last week’s Genesis Scottish Open of how a new LIV member had had his club membership rescinded, there were those who shuddered at the very thought of such a punishment.
Jordan Smith, the English professional who won a car for himself and another for his caddie at the Scottish Open, said that the relationship he had with his clubs, Bowood and the Wisley, were a highlight of his golfing life.
“I love going back and finding myself among familiar places. It’s about talking to everyone and building relationships. The members are great if I do well and always say the right things when I don’t. OK, there’s a free membership involved at both places, but it’s about so much more, as far as I’m concerned.”
One last thought on the subject of kids wanting to be the next Tiger: Not surprisingly, a couple of the teaching professionals to whom I fell into chat at the Open said that the kids whose parents have them concentrating on golf and nothing but golf are the kids least likely to stay in the game.
© 2022 Global Golf Post LLC
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