Tiger Woods is back. That is the sentiment around the world after he came back from behind and won the 2019 Masters. Some are labeling it the greatest comeback in sports history. He experienced a tumultuous downfall starting in 2009 when he was exposed for cheating on his wife with a New York City club manager. Over the next several months, other women came out claiming to have had sexual relations with Woods. He released several statements and entered a 45-day therapy program. He lost endorsement deals with Gillette, Gatorade, General Motors and AT&T. He also suffered several injuries after the cheating scandal and never fully got back into the thick of things. He had a few glimpses of his old self recently, but nothing like the Tiger Woods the world had fallen in love with.
At his peak, Woods was the greatest golfer the world had ever seen. He was quiet yet had a passion for the game that was infectious for the viewers. He made you want to watch golf. He is known for his strong and long drives but upgraded his all-around game. His putting is perhaps his greatest strength now.
He grew up a golf child prodigy. He was 15 when he won U.S. Junior Amateur championship, becoming the youngest to do so. He was a two-time Southern California Amateur Player of the Year along with several Golf Digest Amateur Player of the Year awards. He won his first collegiate golf tournament at Stanford as a freshman. He was Pac-10 Player of the Year, NCAA First Team All-American and Stanford’s Male Freshman of the Year.
He won his first Masters, the most prestigious tournament in golf, at the ripe age of 22 and would go on to win three more times before his most recent win last week. He ranks second in both major PGA championships, three behind Jack Nicklaus and PGA Tour wins. He is a record-setting 11-time winner of the PGA Player of the Year and PGA Tour Player of the Year awards. His success earlier in his career has consistently had him appear on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest paid athletes. According to Golf Digest, from 1996 to 2007, Woods accrued over $750 million and passed $1 billion in 2009.
Being an African-American man, Woods sees it as his responsibility to promote golf to those who look like him and other minorities. In 1996, Woods and his father Earl Woods created the TGR Foundation. Along with junior golf clinics, the organization prides itself on its emphasis on education and hops to give students in underprivileged areas an opportunity to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
The foundation operates the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, California. The $50 million, 35,000-square-foot center provides college-access programs to underserved youth. There are four other campuses in D.C., Philadelphia and Stuart, Florida near Port St. Lucie. These campuses have classrooms, multi-media facilities and an outdoor golf teaching area.
Under the foundation, there is the Earl Woods Scholarship Program that is awarded based on needs and dedication to community service. Each scholar receives financial assistance, mentorship, specialized internship opportunities, career development and enrichment workshops. The program has a 97 percent graduation rate, 97 percent are first generation students and 100 percent receive summer internship.
Whether Tiger is truly back or not doesn’t really matter. He has already cemented his legacy as one of the best sportsmen in history and a champion for black people in a sport dominated by white people. His contribution away from the green are equally as important. Despite his rocky decade-long stretch, he is still one of the greatest golfers and philanthropists we have in sports. A true comeback kid.
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