The first time I remember hearing of Tiger Woods was when I was taking golf lessons at my father’s urging at five years old.
At the time Tiger had not yet won his first Masters, however, my Dad would make me sit at watch golf, first against my will. What five-year-old wants to watch golf? That soon changed when at six years old I saw The Legend himself in person play in Columbus, Ohio.
It was a charity tournament for Jack Nicklaus, so money wasn’t up for grabs, but the intensity, the focus, and the youth I saw in a game that was normally full of stodgy white men was enthralling. I got hooked on golf because of Tiger Woods. His rise to the top, every Green Jacket, and his fall to pits of the bottom of public reducible all were burned in my brain.
As the biggest Tiger fan there could be, I never thought I would see the day that Tiger Woods would wear another Green Jacket. This last week was the fulfillment of the greatest comeback story in professional golf.
I have to apologize to Tiger.
While I know he and I were only close on weekends that he made the cut for PGA Tournaments, which let’s be honest, have been few and far between in the last decade, I should’ve never doubted him. I grew up knowing every Sunday it was time for the red polo shirt of intimidation. While it hasn’t been very intimidating since his two back surgeries, knee surgery, and divorce, the eye of the Tiger was bound to come back, but I doubt no one thought they would see the Tiger of old ever again at Augusta.
My golf stance is Tiger’s. When I grip a club, my right pinky sits in between my left pointer and middle fingers, just like Tiger. My driver has a tiger cover, just like Tiger’s. All my life I saw Tiger Woods achieve greatness, until he didn’t.
After his countless problems, both personal and professional, I like many others, believed Woods would take his winnings, live his days in privacy, like he had always done before his downfall. But that isn’t what happened.
Tiger didn’t just decide to come back to golf and automatically succeed. Instead he failed and did so publicly, miserably, hitting the bottom of his professional career. He has been playing constantly for years, missing cuts at small and national tournaments. Finishing at the bottom of miserable standings, having been beaten by amateurs, pros that were in diapers, or not even born when he first won a professional tournament.
But that didn’t stop him.
He kept playing, kept practicing, kept hearing how everyone said he was done, he had a good run, he was too old, past his prime, let his private life interfere with his game.
It has been 11 years since tiger won a Major, his children have never seen him win a Major.
Every other sports comeback has an asterisk beside it: homerun hitters, bicyclists, steroid use in Olympic Games, the list goes on. There is still one sport, one record, that needs no special character in front, instead maybe it should be highlighted, in big bold letters.
Tiger Woods worked for over a decade to climb back from the bottom point of his life: the destruction of his image, the dissolution of his marriage, the death of his father, and the deterioration of his body to reach the top of the golf world again. His career isn’t over, his story isn’t over, and maybe this will inspire others that theirs isn’t either. I haven’t picked up a set of golf clubs in three years, but on Sunday, I went in my garage and took my tiger cover off my driver...maybe it isn’t over for me either.