Reference Entry

Woods, Tiger

Michael L. Krenn

in Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-first Century

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780195167795
Woods, Tiger

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golfer and businessman. Woods was born Eldrick Woods in Cypress, California, the son of Earl Woods and Kutilda Punsawad Woods. His father and mother met when Earl Woods was serving with the U.S. Army in Thailand during the Vietnam War and Kutilda Punsawad was a Thai national working as a secretary where he was based. They married in 1969 and had their first and only child six years later. From his birth the child was called “Tiger” by his father, a tribute to one of the South Vietnamese soldiers Earl Woods served with during the war.Tiger Woods was a virtual walking melting pot, combining the Chinese, Thai, African American, Native American, and Dutch backgrounds of his parents. But the America he was born into was hardly the racially tolerant promised land dreamed of by Martin Luther King Jr. The all-white neighborhood in Cypress, California, where he was born engaged in a campaign of intimidation against the Woods family, but the family refused to let the bullying, vandalism, and name-calling move them from their home.At a very early age Tiger Woods exhibited an interest in golf, probably from watching the endless hours of practice that his father put into perfecting his own respectable amateur game. By age five Tiger scored his first birdie and became something of celebrity, engaging in a putting contest with the comedian Bob Hope on the Mike Douglas Show. From that point onward Woods dominated amateur golf. He won the Junior World Golf Championship six times from 1984 to 1991. As a sophomore in high school he became the youngest person to win the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. Beginning in 1994 he won the U.S. Amateur Championship for three consecutive years and in 1995 played in the Masters tournament, finishing as the low amateur. As a student at Stanford University, Woods continued his domination, winning the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) individual golf championship in 1996. After finishing his second year at Stanford, he left school and embarked on his professional golf career.African Americans in professional golf were still a relatively new development. The Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) did not admit its first black member until 1962 (Charlie Sifford), and it was not until 1975 that an African American golfer played in the most prestigious professional tournament in the land, the Masters (Lee Elder). Woods, however, generally avoided discussions of race and preferred to let his golfing do his talking. By 2008 he had won sixty-four PGA tournaments, including thirteen majors (second only to Jack Nicklaus with eighteen major victories). His golf winnings were dwarfed by the immense amounts of money he received from endorsements (Nike, Buick, Gillette, and Gatorade, among others). He was also active philanthropically, particularly focusing on helping children through the Tiger Woods Foundation and the Tiger Woods Learning Center.In 2004 Woods married Elin Nordegren, a model. Three years later they had their first child, Sam Alexis Woods.

Reference Entry.  549 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History

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