My friend Tiger Woods.
By Paul Alexandro
I grew up in a remote valley in the Southern hemisphere, surrounded by soaring mountains which seemed like bunker-walls blocking the latest news bulletins. We only received broadcasts of plaid pants and oversize hard-collar shirt pros winning the occasional major. As a single digit handicapper under the age of 9, I reached local stardom. A small town, child personality. Immediately encouraged to reach for the stars of the red, white and blue. When I arrived to this magnificent country, at the tender age of 12; my eyes grew like an owl in the Bethpage night, from staring in awe. What surprised me the most was that I was no longer a cool character in the golfing circle. It was the total opposite. A future teenager in a non-athletic sport is a social killer. Football and baseball were unknown sports to me. Girls knew them. I needed to know about them to know about girls. My high school cheerleader’s chant was loud and clear, golf is not cool.
I feel I know Tiger. Excuse, me… Mr. Tiger Woods. The sad reality is that I grew up with Mr. Woods. I am exactly 4 summers of intense practicing older than him. We both pounded millions of golf balls on the driving range together, well… not on the same physical space, but on the same analog time. Our parallel paths became perpendicular on several junior golf tournaments. Our acquaintances and social events overlapped. Presently, there is only one degree of separation with Tiger. I now feel close enough to call him by his first name.
Growing up with Tiger. Watching Tiger. Knowing Tiger. Always close, yet lives apart.
I admire the athlete, but wish he was 10 years older than I am. He would have made me the most popular guy in high school. The man revolutionized the game. Golf is now a sport, not a game. Golfers dress with the coolest trends. If I only played high-school golf in this millennium of cool golfers. And I’m just talking about fashion; don’t let me get started on the physical change Mr. Woods is accounted in this new sport. New golf course architecture designed to tame the wild animal that roared through the world humiliating fairways and greens. He lowered the average age of new golfers that idolize his sculptured body and charming personality. Tiger Woods forever converted a static game into a dynamic sport.
My melancholic memories of aspiring to one day become a professional golfer have just been interrupted by a sales call; the reality of my work in the golf business. I am still watching Tiger from a front row seat. Weather it is my comfortable sofa watching the man on TV or living only a few miles away from his home in Florida. Like many an enthusiastic, I am one more Tiger-tournament watcher. A newly formed golf cult that only opens the window into the sport, if Tiger is playing.
What do we do now? I have not watched TV since the last time he hit many more shots than he was hoping for. I am getting ready to follow him next week in what sounds to me like a cooking show. The “Fry’s open”. Is Mr. Woods going to be cooking some intricate sautéed dish?
All I know is that I am a true fan. I will keep watching with hopes of seeing him overcome all those personal dilemmas that most of us mortals could not even fantasize, yet alone conquer. All I can tell him as a far away friend is: “Tiger, you have a privileged life. Forget about being a role model. Forget about what is expected of you. We all have personal issues, only difference is that yours are witnessed by the world. Just leave those troubles in the locker room. Go out and enjoy this amazing game. Let me tell you something, as a young college golfer I made the choice to quit the path you continued… At 39, I can now appreciate the freedom of ripping a little white ball around a dazzling, lush green garden. Enjoy it!”
That’s my advise. My hope is to see you rule this indomitable sport. You did it before, just remember the place you were once and visit it again. Tiger, good luck my friend.