Dare To Do Your Best: Tiger Woods Gives Back
A 10-year-old boy loses sleep for two weeks. An 11-year old girl hyperventilates, and then bursts into a cascade of happy tears. What is the cause of so much excitement? It’s the opportunity to receive thoughtful, one-on-one guidance from their hero, America’s top golf superstar — Tiger Woods.
Tiger’s achievements are many-he is the 1997 Associated Press Athlete of the year, winner of the PGA Tour money title, and the youngest Masters Champion of all time. But despite his superstar status, Tiger, his father Earl, and their dedicated staff, feel that Tiger’s most remarkable achievement as a professional is, undoubtedly, the establishment of the Tiger Woods Foundation (TWF).
Through the foundation, Tiger devotes his time to inspire kids in golf, and even more importantly–throughout life. “Golf is not everything,” Tiger says. “The most important thing is furthering yourself, making yourself a better person.” In their fifth year, work at TWF focuses on inner city underprivileged kids, ages 7 to 17, and raises money through junior golf clinics, exhibitions, motivational workshops, and scholarships. “We’re trying to convey that although Tiger Woods is a golfer, we are not a golf foundation. We are not about making the next Tiger Woods. We’re helping kids gain access and opportunity to those things, and more,” says Dennis Burns, Director of Junior Golf.
“He is their Idol”
Using golf as a platform, the foundation is Tiger’s way of empowering young people to reach their highest potential. Created in 1996, the foundation allows Tiger to reach as many young people as possible. The foundation has interacted with 70,000 children so far and its influence is growing.
Tiger’s impact on kids is profound. Dennis Burns, a role model in his own right, ranks as a PGA member, one of only 32 African-American golf professionals. As director of the foundation’s junior golf clinics, Burns says that even Tiger himself doesn’t realize the tremendous benefits kids gain from their experience with him. “Tiger is their hero,” says Burns. The kids think, “Here’s a guy, the number one golfer in the world, and he’s going to take time to work with me.”
Burns says that Tiger and his father’s messages inspire kids and adults alike. “The kids aren’t the only ones who walk away with something. Earl has made better parents out of all of us,” Burns says. “Tiger energizes and inspires you when you see what he’s overcome. It makes you feel like you can do the same thing.” He pauses to reflect for a moment. “I’ve had some of my own success in golf, but when I see Tiger, there’s a feeling about the all the kinds of goals I can attain in my life,” says Burns. “Yet, Tiger is so humble, he’s not aware of the magnitude of the impact he has on kids and everyone.”
Tiger is proud of his dual heritage as half Thai and half African-American. Although both groups pressure Tiger to choose one ethnicity over the other, Tiger remains strong in his conviction that he is equally proud to be both African-American and Asian. “To have an idol in a sport and to have the guy be a great person like Tiger, with the same color skin, that’s what gets to the kids,” says Burns. “Tiger is not too far removed from these kids. The kid might be 17-years-old and Tiger is only 25.”
Burns states that in his own career working with prestigious golf clubs in Michigan and Chicago, coming into contact with high profile athletes and celebrities was ‘par for the course.’ However, what distinguishes Tiger from other stars is his rare willingness to give back. “That makes Tiger Woods so special. He’s doing it the way it should be done,” says Burns.
It was just a few years ago that Tiger Woods relinquished his final two years as a Stanford undergraduate to pursue his childhood dream of professional golf. No one could have predicted his incredible impact on both the game of golf and greater society in such a short time. Even on Capitol Hill there was discussion of the “Tiger Woods Bill,” proposed to give multi-racial citizens what they have been lacking for decades, their own “multi-ethnic category” in the eyes of the Federal Government.
Going for a Hole in One
This year TWF plans four Coca-Cola Junior Golf Clinic and Exhibition events, to take place in Long Beach California, Birmingham Alabama, Rockford Illinois, and Columbus Ohio. Tiger will give each of 25 kids a hands-on lesson, while professional golf instructors work with an additional 100 juniors, introducing them to golf for the first time. After the clinic, 3,000 children will get to see Tiger show off his skills in a ball-striking exhibition. Children also have the opportunity to learn about the rules of the game, the history of minority participation in golf, and the career opportunities available in the golf industry.
Earl Woods, the president of the Foundation and a best-selling author, inspires kids and adults alike with his speech at the exhibition called “Sharing & Caring”. Earl shares his deeply emotional view of his experiences raising Tiger, and instructs parents and mentors on the value of their involvement in the lives of children. According to Earl, “The most important thing in your life is not your job, house, car, husband or wife. The most important thing is your child.” Earl encourages parents to build relationships with their children based on trust and respect. Earl says, “Trust and respect must be earned. And it is here that you as a parent can devote much of your energies. When this has been achieved on a mutual basis, the relationship can perform miracles. It works.”
Tiger also leads a discussion with local children to share his experiences and answer questions, and ends each day with an attempt to make a hole-in-one. If he is successful, his winning shot will earn id=”mce_marker” million for local charities. To participate in the clinics, kids must be from an inner city junior golf program, in which participation has quadrupled across the country since Tiger hit the scene.
One of the most popular events of the clinic weekend is the Celebrity Auction, attended by Tiger and his father. This dinner benefit event features an auction of unique autographed memorabilia from Tiger and other sports and entertainment stars.
Teaching Honesty & Respect
In an era where our nation’s little leaguers and even their parents can be sad examples of poor sportsmanship, golf stands out as a sport where adherence to simple rules of etiquette is expected. “You don’t tear up the turf,” says Burns. “You replace divots. You are responsible for making your tee time. If you don’t make it, you miss out. When you tee off first, the other player says, ‘you have the honor.'”
“Tiger’s biggest thing is about being respectful,” Burns explains. “Kids nowadays aren’t always aware of the need for respect. Kids need to respect, parents, adults, and most of all-themselves.” Referring to an incident in February where Tiger wrenched his knee when he was rushed by an autograph seeker, Burns said, “Tiger constantly sets the example for respect, even though the fans themselves aren’t always respectful to Tiger.”
Kids get life lessons from golf.” Burns says. “I use what I learned in golf in day to day life. Every shot is not going to be perfect. You can recover from a bad shot. You can recover from a bad day. You can move on.”
Granting Special Wishes
Kids from ‘Make a Wish’, the charitable organization that grants one special wish to terminally ill children, participate in each clinic. “These are the moments that stand out,” says Burns, beginning to choke up. “These kids won’t live to see another year, but Tiger takes his own time and spends it with them. Tiger takes it very seriously and it touches his heart. Compassion is the true essence of Tiger. He gets it from his dad,” says Burns.
Burns recalls a girl from Cincinnati who dreamed of meeting Tiger. “I had promised her that she would,” says Burns. “When she saw Tiger, she started hyperventilating. Then she started crying and I even started crying. Tiger just hugged her.”
The Foundation at Work
The Tiger Woods Foundation has grown quickly to become an efficient fundraising machine that distributes money in ways that make a real difference in kids’ lives. Through 2001, the Tiger Woods Foundation Benefactor Program has contributed to 65 youth programs in 36 cities throughout 21 states, and the Foundation has helped raise over $560,000 for the cities in which it has conducted clinics.
Money raised by the junior golf clinics is part of the TWF’s “Leave Behind” program. After expenses, 90 percent of the funds raised are earmarked to help junior programs that serve minority and underprivileged youth in the city where each clinic takes place. The funds are used to purchase equipment, provide additional golf instruction, and to increase access to practice facilities and competitions.
True to their commitment to offer opportunities in broad areas, the TWF offers an extensive scholarship program. The William and Marcella Powell Scholarship Award was established in 1998 to honor and recognize the courage, determination and pioneering spirit of William and Marcella Powell, the first African-Americans to design, own and operate a golf course in the United States. The Alfred “Tup” Holmes Memorial Scholarship Award was established in 1999 to honor the civil rights pioneer who paved the way to desegregating Atlanta’s public golf courses in the 1950’s. In 2000, the National Minority Junior Golf Scholarship Association and the TWF joined together to create the NMJGSA/TWF Scholarships. Through this program, five scholarships will be awarded to minority junior golfers attending college each year.
A Bridge from the Inner City to the International Arena
Over the past two years, the Tiger Woods Foundation National Junior Golf team has competed in the Junior World Golf Championships held in San Diego, CA. In recognition of Tiger’s work, the Junior World Golf Championships granted permanent exemptions to the Foundation, building a bridge between inner city playgrounds and an international arena. These exemptions get inner city junior golfers into international competition and reciprocate a similar chance afforded Tiger. “All kids need is a chance,” said Earl Woods. “The Foundation is about making sure they get it.”
The Foundation’s fundraising efforts are driven by two key events–the Tiger Jam Concert and the Williams World Challenge, a golf tournament presented by Target. Tiger Jam is a benefit concert hosted by Tiger, featuring award-winning musical talent that has included Christina Aguilera, LeAnn Rimes, the Eagles, Celine Dion and, Hootie & the Blowfish. Proceeds from the April 2001 Las Vegas Tiger Jam will benefit youth-driven charities in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, such as the Fulfillment Fund, the Greater Las Vegas Inner city Games, Child Haven, Leadership Las Vegas Youth, and others.
In its third year, the Williams World Challenge features one of the most elite fields on the PGA TOUR, showcasing players among the top ten in World Golf Rankings. Proceeds from this tournament will build the Tiger Woods Pavilion, a 200-seat covered outdoor amphitheater, at Target House. Target House was established in 1999 at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Providing a temporary home for families, Target House allows the healing power of family life to work its magic while kids get cancer treatment. The Tiger Woods Library is already in place at Target House.
Burns says that TWF hopes that the kids they work with will go back to their own communities and give back, as Tiger has. “We get great letters from kids thanking Tiger for helping them work through situations. What Tiger and Earl teach helps them work though not just their golf game –it helps them work through their life. The letters say things like, ‘I’m in college now, I’m playing golf, and I just wanted you to know.'”
Tiger’s efforts are clearly working. As Tiger says, “I want every child in America to have the opportunity I had.”
For more information on the Tiger Woods Foundation, please call (714) 816-1806