JUNE 11, 2012
Starting A Career With A Famous Last Name
PITTSFORD, NEW YORK | She calls him
“Uncle Tiger,” smacked her first golf shot
into his famous net and got her first set of
clubs from Earl Sr.
Cheyenne Woods, 21, is the daughter of
Earl Woods, Jr., one of Earl’s three children from his first marriage. She turned
pro three weeks ago after graduating from
Wake Forest and her ambition is to play on
the LPGA Tour.
“This is what I’ve dreamed about my
entire life,” she said. “I’ve been waiting
and waiting for this moment.”
Woods just got her first taste of the
challenge ahead. She missed the cut in her
professional debut at the Wegmans LPGA
Championship, shooting 10-over-par 154.
She didn’t even need 140 characters to
summarize her performance in a post-round
tweet: “Played absolutely terrible today.”
Twenty years ago, Woods attended
her first professional tournament. She
recounted a story that has become part
of her legend. It was the 1992 Nissan Los
Angeles Open. She was 19 months old
and strapped into a stroller. Her mother,
Susan, pushed her along Riviera Country
Club’s verdant playground as 16-year-old
Tiger made his PGA Tour debut.
“I was trying to keep her quiet,”
recalled Susan, who attended the LPGA
During that same visit, Woods struck
her first golf shot in her grandfather’s
garage, into the same net where Tiger got
his start. Grandpa Earl used to scrutinize
her swing via VHS tape. He preached some
of his cagiest advice, such as the infamous
tip to “putt to the picture” to her.
“He saw something in me and knew
I would at one point in my life be in this
position that I’m in right now,” she said.
“That’s something that motivated me
throughout the years.”
So Grandpa Earl blessed us with Tiger
and Cheyenne. It’s unclear the depth of
their relationship. In Tom Callahan’s book,
“His Father’s Son,” Callahan notes that
prior to Tiger’s scandal she asked Wake
Forest’s sports information department to
remove a mention of Tiger in her bio.
“Nothing against him,” she said in the
book. “He’s been very nice to me. It’s just, you
see, I don’t want to be Tiger Woods’ niece.”
Since turning pro, she has tightened
her allegiance. She signed with Tiger’s
agent, Mark Steinberg, and was decked
out in Nike gear and equipment (though
an endorsement deal hasn’t been officially
announced yet). Make no mistake, Woods
was given a sponsor’s invite – into a major
no less – because of her last name.
“Right now, I just want to earn my way
on the tour,” she said.
Q-School this fall beckons and there’s
work to be done. Her short game lacked polish. Or, as Tiger might put it, she’s going to
have to improve turning three shots into two.
Any assessment of her potential needs
to be tempered in reality. Don’t expect her
to be a world-beater or record-breaker.
But wherever Woods goes, she draws attention, something the LPGA desperately
needs. Women’s golf could use another
minority role model.
Indeed, her name recognition attracted
an eclectic gallery. She could’ve used Steve
Williams by her side with all the middle-aged men snapping their camera phones
during play. After the round, she was upbeat and garrulous and spoke to fans like
they were acquaintances, not quite friends
but beyond strangers. This was after flopping to a Friday 79, mind you. It’s a habit
she must’ve picked up from Phil, not Tiger.
“Cheyenne has that rare combination of
skill and charisma,” said her Xavier College
Preparatory coach, Lynn Winsor. “She’s one
of the most humble people I’ve ever known.”
Tiger, on the other hand, was humbled.
It was past 8 p.m. when she finished
signing the last autograph and posing for
pictures. “My face hurts from smiling,”
Her oversized grin wasn’t forced. It
hasn’t hardened into granite the way some
celebrities do. No, this was the smile of
youth from someone whose career was
ready for takeoff. l