A Child Prodigy
Imitating his father’s swing at six months old, Tiger played golf before he could even speak. Knowing that an exceptional golfer was on the rise, his parents cultivated his love of golf. They allowed him to compete. At eight years old, Tiger won the Optimist International Junior World. He repeated the feat five more times at ages nine, 12, 13, 14 and 15. To think that he was pitted against 17–year–olds made it look even more incredible.
In 1991, the same year he won his sixth Optimist International Junior World event, Tiger took home the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship trophy. At 15 years old, Tiger then held the record of being the youngest to win the said event. He remained the champion of the U.S. Junior Amateur event until he turned 17. No longer eligible to play for the Junior event, he participated in the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1994.
Tiger remained unbeatable in 1995 and 1996 and succeeded in defending the title, making him the only golfer in history to have won the Optimist International Junior World, the U.S. Junior Amateur, and the U.S. Amateur Championship without having to relinquish the title.
Seeing the young Tiger play gave the younger generation a good reason to closely follow golf. Since Tiger began competing, there had been a considerable increase in golf following. The game that was once almost ignored became a hit in the United States. The only reason most of them cite for watching was the genial golfer named Tiger.
By the time Tiger turned 20, he was already considered a golf icon. In 1996, Sports Illustrated named him Sportsman of the Year, a title which was given to him once more in 2000. Since Sports Illustrated magazine started naming impressive athletes Sportsman of the Year, never did they award the title twice. They had to make an exception for Tiger.
He won his first major event in 1997 and since then was heralded as one of the greatest golfers who ever lived. In 1996, Tiger co-founded the Tiger Woods Foundation along with his father Earl Woods. Father and son wanted golf to be as widely popular to children in the inner-cities as basketball and football are. Ten years later, the Tiger Woods Learning Centre opened its doors to promising athletes who are, one way or another, deterred to achieve their dreams by poverty and insufficient support.
In 2009, Forbes named Tiger “the world's first athlete to earn over a billion dollars in his career.” After taxes, Forbes estimated his net worth to be around 600 million dollars, making him second to Oprah Winfrey in their list of the richest African-American in the United States.
What further contributed to Tiger’s burgeoning wealth were his endorsements. Nike, Incorporated offered Tiger a handsome deal to wear their apparel and use their equipment while he played on the golf course. The deal was worth it because Nike’s sales went up after Tiger’s print and TV adverts were launched. The same worked for TAG Heuer which commissioned Tiger to wear their watches in his matches. Partly due to Tiger’s effective ambassadorship, “TAG Heuer Professional Golf Watch won the prestigious iF product design award in the Leisure/Lifestyle category” according to best-watch.net.
Because of Tiger’s impeccable reputation in golf, Buick, General Mills, General Motors, Electronic Arts, Gatorade, Accenture, American Express, and Gillette offered endorsement contracts, adding to his already huge prize money.
The Scandal that almost Cost Tiger’s Career
Everything was going perfectly well in Tiger’s life until the allegations made by his mistresses surfaced. Tiger, then married to model Elin Nordegren since 2004, was accused of having illicit affairs not only with one but several different women. Initially denying allegations, Tiger eventually admitted to getting involved with those women while married to Elin. He issued a public apology to his family and supporters. To show them how remorseful he was, he announced leaving golf for an unknown period of time. His marriage with Elin went down the drain and the two officially divorced on 23 August 2010.
When Tiger decided to again compete, he was welcomed by the public with a cold shoulder. That somehow contributed to his poor performance. It turned he just needed a warm-up. As soon as he got his mind back on the game, Tiger again became a force to be reckoned with. He also gave his heart another shot. Now dating fellow athlete Lindsey Vonn, everything in Tiger’s life seemed to be in status quo.
Those who haven’t followed Tiger’s early career may find his comeback preposterous. But for those who have closely watched Tiger rise to fame, seeing Tiger take tentative steps back towards the public watch validates his being a winner. Tiger practically grew up under the spotlight and never in the past had he experienced a stale welcome. How he struggled to get back on his feet again is something to be credited for. Tiger was nicknamed aptly.
How He Got the Nickname Tiger
Earl Woods was a Vietnam veteran whose life was saved countless of times by his best buddy, Colonel Vuong Dang Phong, whom he fondly called “Tiger.” To honor his friend, he nicknamed his only son in his second marriage after him. Prior to meeting Kultida Punsawad in Thailand, Earl was married to Barbara Woods Gray for 18 years. They had three children, Earl, Jr., Kevin, and Royce.
Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods was born on 30 December 1975 in Southern California. His mother Kultida or “Tida” chose to name him Eldrick mainly because it’s the perfect combination of her and her husband’s name. The first letter “E” stands for “Earl,” while “K” stands for “Kultida.” “Tont,” on the other hand, is a common Thai name.
One of Earl’s hobbies was playing golf. Whenever he played golf, he noticed his infant son curiously watching him. One day when he was only six months old, his father unstrapped him from his high chair. Free to walk, he picked up his father’s club and held it in his left hand. After a few seconds, he switched his grip from left to right and imitated his father’s swing. That moment gave Earl a glimpse of what Tiger would soon become.
When he was only two years old, they were invited to guest on the Mike Douglas Show to engage in a putting game with the great comedian Bob Hope. Then at the age of five, he appeared in That’s Incredible show featuring him as a prodigal child golfer. Tiger will never forget a valuable lesson he learned from his father in that show.
While waiting for their turn to be interviewed backstage, Tiger saw other kids showing off their abilities. Some could bend their bodies in unbelievable angles, while others did stuff Tiger thought to be impossible. Earl asked his son if he thinks he could do those things. The five year old said he cannot. That was the answer Earl wanted to hear.
He then told his boy that everybody has something special to offer. Not because Tiger can do golf better than other kids doesn’t meant that he was superior to them. Each person has his or her own gift; it’s just a matter of discovering what they do best and working hard to excel in one’s craft. That taught Tiger to keep his feet on the ground no matter how famous he would later on become.
Tiger Gets a Professional Trainer
To help their son develop his golf skills, they hired Rudy Duran to train the boy on the fundamentals of golf. When he was six years old, he lost a match to a girl. Tiger could not take being second best. He was so furious that he refused to shake hands when the game was concluded.
Tida knew that something has to be done to straighten out his son’s behavior towards losing. She took Tiger aside and told him that he dishonored her and his father by acting that way towards the other contender. She warned Tiger that it would be the last time he would conduct himself like that in public. Tiger knew her mother well enough not to disobey her. Between Earl and Tida, Tiger found his mother more intimidating. Earl was a softie, while Tida was a disciplinarian.
One more thing his parents instilled in him was the importance of education. They knew that Tiger was likely to get distracted with golf, so they lay their cards on the table and made it clear to the boy that they wanted him to focus on his studies.
Tida and Earl helped Tiger to balance studies and golf. They would let Tiger practice only after he has finished all his homework. Tiger would later on claim his love of golf as his primary motivator in excelling at school. Because his parents made it clear to him how they wanted Tiger to do well in school without dropping golf altogether, the young athlete learned to channel the same amount of concentration he exerted in the golf course on his studies.
His father became Tiger’s closest friend. Unlike Tida, Tiger found his father to be more of a comrade. Earl avoided sounding intimidating to his boy. Whenever he spoke to him, he made sure that they looked eye-to-eye. Every time Tiger wanted to tell his father about something, the burly Earl would drop whatever he was doing and sit beside Tiger where they could talk without the boy having to look up. This strategy worked and Tiger found a confidante in his father.
Tiger’s “Military” Training
He started competing in the Optimist International Junior World when he was only eight years old. Tiger’s victory was closely followed. He would end up winning that event six times. When he was 13 years old, he let his father know about feeling out of place in the golf course. He was competing with 17–year–olds and he felt that he lacked the fighting spirit that his opponents’ maturity afforded them. Tiger asked his dad if he could train him.
It did not take a lot of persuading for Earl who was more than willing to subject his son to the kind of rigid military training he once underwent being a war veteran. The training frustrated Tiger to the point of breaking down.
Earl would test his son’s patience and did the most outrageous stunts to distract Tiger. It drove Tiger crazy, but then he and Earl had an agreement that if he showed any hint of perplexity, the training would be terminated. To avoid that, Tiger would just simply grit his teeth whenever Earl tried to provoke him. His adolescent hormones made it really a daunting experience.
But Tiger soon got used to it, until one day, Earl announced that the training was over. He told his son that he will “never meet another person as mentally tough as him.” This encouraged the boy and helped him outgrow his insecurities.
Tiger’s skin color made him a target of prejudice as well. He would often be asked by white contenders what he was doing in the golf course. Although racial discrimination was no longer that pronounced, golf was predominantly considered a game for white Americans. They would look at Earl and Tiger with disdain, only to be taken aback by the boy’s perfect shots.
It did not take long before Tiger conquered the world of golf. At 15 years old, he had already won the Optimist International Junior World six times. After winning his first U.S. Junior Amateur Championship that same year, people knew Tiger would go a long way.
He did not disappoint. In 1992 and 1993, he successfully defended his title in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. At 18 years old, he became eligible to compete in the U.S. Amateur Championship. Then the same winning streak in the U.S. Amateur Championship awaited Tiger from 1994 to 1996. By the end of 1996, Earl and Tiger founded what is now known as the Tiger Woods Foundation to help promote the sport to inner-city children.
This resulted in a plethora of awards that came from golf award-giving bodies and other prestigious organizations within and outside of America. Tiger managed to excel both in sports and his academic subjects. Back in 1986, he received a letter from the golf coach of Stanford University, asking him to consider attending the famous institution to obtain a degree. The 11–year–old Tiger was ecstatic. He wrote 10 drafts before he composed the perfect response to the university’s golf coach, which read:
“Thank you for your recent letter expressing Stanford’s interest in me as a future student and golfer. At first it was hard for me to understand why a university like Stanford was interested in a thirteen-year-old seventh grader. But after talking with my father I have come to understand the honor you have given me …” (Source: Recruiting Starts Early... Just Ask Tiger - NCSA Athletic Recruiting Blog).
Eight years later, the 19–year–old Tiger found himself in the premises of Stanford University. He was given a golf scholarship grant and eventually became popular as he excelled in the university’s golf team. He graduated from Western High School with the “Most Likely to Succeed” title and debuted at Stanford by winning the polls for “Stanford's Male Freshman of the Year.” The title is annually given to athletes who are seen with great potential to succeed.
After two years of college, Tiger left the university to focus on his career. By the year 2000, he’s already been awarded Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine twice—an unprecedented event in Sports Illustrated history. Nike solidified Tiger’s celebrity status when they offered him a staggering 105 million–dollar contract, easily making him the highest-paid athlete endorser ever!
Marrying Elin Nordegren
In 2003, Tiger was engaged to minister of migration Barbro Holmberg and radio journalist Thomas Nordegren's daughter—the stunning Elin Nordegren. He married Elin the following year and in three years’ time became a proud father of Sam Alexis Woods. Elin would again give birth in 2009 to Charlie Axel Woods.
With Buick, TAG Heuer, General Motors, General Mills, Gillette, Gatorade, Electronic Arts, American Express, Titleist, and Accenture, Tiger was touted a very viable endorser. Even after a couple of knee surgery, Tiger kept winning.
The Womanizing Scandals Threaten Tiger’s Career
In late 2009, however, a terrible scandal shook Tiger Wood’s perfect world. After Earl succumbed to prostate cancer in 2007, Tiger felt the loss of his greatest mentor and closest friend. It arguably might have contributed to his subsequent extra-marital affairs.
As shocking as it was, celebrity magazines leaked a story of his illicit affairs, which was exacerbated by succeeding women who sought to be interviewed, implicating Tiger of adultery. Tabloids and magazines took advantage of the story and sensationalized it until Tiger finally conceded, issuing a public apology. But the damage was just too great and Tiger became wifeless in less than a year.
He temporarily ceased playing to grieve his loss. By the time he was ready to compete again, he finds himself under the scrutiny of a hostile public. He was yet to be forgiven for his sexual indecencies. With his name dragged into a scandal, only Nike and Electronic Arts remained his faithful business partners. The rest thought it was best to sever ties with him to protect their reputation.
Without a family and with his name badly tarnished, Tiger was practically left with nothing to inspire him to keep playing. But his passion for golf soon outweighed his disillusionment. Still a bit distracted, Tiger would alarm avid followers with his lackluster performance. But as soon as he felt emotionally and physically up for it, he was again back to being his competitive self in no time.
His latest wins are the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the Farmers Insurance Open. It’s the seventh time he won both majors since he began his professional golf career.
Tiger Maintains High Net Worth
As of June 2013, Forbes estimated his earnings at 78.1 million dollars. His profile in Forbes reads: "Tiger Woods has been the hottest golfer on the planet with six tournament wins over the past 12-months. His prize money has doubled and his off-course income is up thanks to sponsor bonuses with Nike and Rolex tied to his wins and a return to the top of the World Golf Rankings. Woods has also been busy overseas collecting more than $10 million in appearance fees from stops in Abu Dhabi, China, Malaysia and Turkey. Woods’ golf course-design business has also picked up after multiple blowups. Developers broke ground on a new course in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, which is likely to be the first completed Woods-designed course." (Source: Forbes)
To date, we are yet to see one as gifted in golf as Tiger Woods is. More than his exemplary golf records and trophies, what makes Tiger a sports figure is his ability to survive the heat both in the golf course and in real life. At the end of the day, Tiger proved himself worthy of being called a winner.
Organisations and Campaigns Supported
- Caddy for a Cure
- Rainforest Foundation Fund
- Shriners Hospitals for Children
- Tiger Woods Foundation
- Tiger Woods Learning Center
- Chevron World Challenge
- AT&T national
- Tiger Woods Invitational
- Block Party
- Tiger Jam
- Tiger Woods Design
- The Tiger Woods Dubai
- Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online
- TLC Laser Eye Centers
- Earl Woods Scholarship Program
- Tavistock Group
- Tiger Woods Foundation National Junior Golf Team
- Start Something
- Electronic Arts
- 1978: Guested at the Mike Douglas Show
- 1978: Shot a 48 over nine holes over the Cypress Navy course
- 1980: Appeared in Golf Digest
- 1980: Appeared on That's Incredible
- 1982: Won the Under Age 10 section of the Drive
- 1984: Won the 9–10 boys' event at the Junior World Golf Championships
- 1988-1991: Won the Junior World Championships six times
- 1990: Became the youngest ever U.S. Junior Amateur champion until 2010
- 1990-1991: Named Southern California Amateur Player of the Year
- 1990: Named Golf Digest Junior Amateur Player of the Year
- 1992: Named Golf Digest Amateur Player of the Year
- 1992: Named Golf World Player of the Year
- 1994: Won the U.S. Amateur Championship
- 1994: Won the 40th Annual William H. Tucker Invitational
- 1994: Voted Most Likely to Succeed at the Western High School
- 1994: Became a member of the Eisenhower Trophy World Amateur Golf Team Championships
- 1995: Voted Pac-10 Player of the Year, NCAA First Team All-American
- 1995: Voted Stanford's Male Freshman of the Year
- 1995: Became a member of the Walker Cup
- 1995: Won the US Amateur Golf for the second time in a row
- 1996: Founded the Tiger Woods Foundation
- 1996: Won the US Amateur Golf for the third time in a row
- 1996: Won the NCAA individual golf championship
- 1996: Became a professional golfer
- 1996: Named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated
- 1996: Named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year
- 1997: Held the record for the fastest-ever ascent to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings
- 1997: Won his first major
- 1997: Reached the number one position in the world rankings
- 1997: Chosen as ESPY Male Athlete of the Year
- 1999-2004: Number 1 for 264 weeks
- 1999-2001: Chosen as ESPY Male Athlete of the Year
- 1999-2000: Named World Sportsman of the Year by the World Sports Academy
- 2000: Only athlete to be named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated twice
- 2000: Ranked as the twelfth-best golfer of all time according to Golf Digest
- 2000: Signed a $105 million contract with Nike, making him the highest-paid athlete endorser
- 2000: Selected by L'Equipe as the World Champion of Champions
- 2001: Published "How I Play Golf" and sold 1.5 million copies
- 2001: Won in the 2001 Masters Tournament
- 2001: Became the first player to hold all four major professional golf titles at the same time
- 2005-2010: Number 1 for 281 weeks
- 2006: Opened the Tiger Woods Learning Center
- 2006: Launched Tiger Woods Design
- 2007: Inducted into the California Hall of Fame
- 2007: Became one of the ambassadors for the Gillette Champions
- 2008: Won in the U.S. Open
- 2008: No. 1 in The Power 100 for the most influential people in sports according to BusinessWeek
- 2009: Named "Athlete of the Decade" by the Associated Press
- 2009: Named by Forbes as the only athlete to ever earn over a billion dollars
- 2009: Became the second richest "African American"
- 2011: Hosted the Tiger Woods Invitational
- 2012: Won the Arnold Palmer Invitational
- 2013: Ranked Number 2
- 2013: Won the WGC-Cadillac Championship for the seventh time
- 2013: Won the Farmers Insurance Open for the seventh time
- Holds the record of Number 1 Golfer "for the most consecutive weeks and for the greatest total number of weeks of any other golfer"
- Holds the record of being awarded PGA Player of the Year 10 times
- Holds the record of being awarded the Byron Nelson Award eight times
- Holds the record of leading the money list in nine different seasons
- Second to Jack Nicklaus in terms of the number of professional major golf championships (14 in total) he won
- Holds the record of having the most number of career major wins and career PGA Tour wins
- Youngest to have achieved the career Grand Slam and shares the record of winning it three times with Jack Nicklaus
- Youngest and fastest golfer to win 50 tournaments on tour
- Won a total of 17 World Golf Championships
- Four times named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year
- Once deemed the world's most marketable athlete
- At one point endorsed the following: General Motors, Titleist, General Mills, American Express, Accenture, TAG Heuer, Gatorade, Electronic Arts, Buick, Kowa Co., Fuse Science, Inc., and Nike, Inc.
- Nike had a building named after him at their headquarters at Oregon
- He has won 74 PGA Tours, 39 European Tours, 2 Japan Golf Tours, 1 Asian Tour, 1 PGA Tour of Australasia, 15 Other professional tours, and 21 Amateur Tours
- Received the Byron Nelson Award on the PGA tour and the Vardon Trophy from the PGA of America
- Won dozens of Golfer of the Year and Athlete of the Year awards, going back to his amateur days