Tiger Woods Trains, Hosts Golf Clinic at Fort Bragg
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
FORT BRAGG, N.C., Apr. 16, 2004 Golf superstar Tiger Woods traded in his green jacket for an Army battle dress uniform and his golf spikes for combat boots this week to follow in his father's footsteps and train with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
Golfer Tiger Woods, center, offers instruction to military children at Fort Bragg, N.C., April 16. Photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The world's top-ranked golfer, whose father is a retired lieutenant colonel who served in the Army's Special Forces, said he was "amazed to see how dedicated everyone is" and praised the contributions the soldiers make every day to the nation's security.
Woods said that in many respects, the physical and mental demands of the military training he received are similar to those he experiences as a professional golfer. "You have to be mentally ready," he said. "The only difference is that (the soldiers are) putting their lives on the line. I'm not. They're doing it for our country and to keep us safe, and they are to be commended."
Woods arrived at Pope Air Force Base in his private jet April 12, one day after playing in the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga., to take on what some might consider an even bigger challenge: four days of Army special operations training.
He called the weapons training he received "an absolute blast." His father, retired Lt. Col. Earl Woods, said his son learned on the sniper course something that could have a direct impact on his golf game: that his left eye is his dominant eye. This, he said, will help his son with his "plumbing" on the course to determine where the ball will go.
The junior Woods said the four-mile run he did in a 400-man formation, singing cadence "at the top of my lungs" was a far cry from what he'd ever experienced running solo with his MP3 player to train for his golf game.
He also received close-quarters combat training and trained in a vertical wind tunnel used to train paratroopers.
But the highlight of the training experience, Woods said, was two tandem jumps on April 15 with the Army's parachute team, the Golden Knights. "It was an experience I'll never forget," he said. "I was so excited, I couldn't wait to go." Woods described the jumps, from 13,500 feet, as "feeling like you're floating, but at 120 miles an hour."
Earl Woods joked that his son was "like a little boy" who, as soon as he finished the first jump, asked, 'Can I go again?'"
Today, wrapping up his visit here, Woods hosted the Tiger Woods Foundation's 30th Junior Golf Clinic at the post's Stryker Golf Course. The foundation supports community-based programs that promote health, education and welfare for children.
The two-hour clinic featured one-on-one golf instruction to 84 military children, most from Fort Bragg. The top eight junior golfers received personal instruction from Woods.
Among them was Gretchen McLean, 13-year-old daughter of Chief Warrant Officer Jim McLean of the 1st Special Warfare Training Unit. With about four years of golfing experience under her belt, Gretchen said she hoped to get some insight into what many say separates Tiger Woods from the pack among professional golfers: his ability, in Gretchen's words, "to zone everything out" and focus on the game when under pressure.
Gretchen admitted that she was "so nervous that I was surprised I got the ball to stay on the tee" during her session with Woods, but said she was, in fact, able to "clear everything out of my mind" to concentrate on the ball. The result, she said, was an extra 25 yards to her drive. "I think it's going to make a big difference," she beamed.
Also selected for one-on-one instruction from Woods was Trevis Dowdy, a 16- year-old from Clio, S.C., whose father, Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Dowdy, is deployed to Iraq with the South Carolina National Guard's A Battery, 3rd Battalion, 178th Field Artillery.
"It was awesome, the experience of a lifetime," Dowdy said. His father, also a golfer, had called earlier in the morning from his base 40 miles south of Baghdad to wish his son good luck.
After the clinic, Woods participated in an exhibition for more than 4,000 members of the Fort Bragg community. Other events were a performance by trick shot artist Dennis Walters and a jump by the Golden Knights.
Woods's father, who first trained at Fort Bragg in 1963 following a tour in Vietnam and was assigned to a Special Forces unit here before leaving for another tour in 1970, joined his son at the clinic and exhibition.
The senior Woods said "it's still too early" to assess the impact of his son's Fort Bragg experience. "It hasn't sunk in yet," he said. "It's like being in the forest. You're too close to the trees to see the forest." Still, he said, he expects the training will give his son "a better appreciation of teamwork and of being a member of a team and how important a team is."
He said he hoped his son got a sense of how men and women in uniform "look out for each other, support each other and love each other" something he said "is not prevalent on the PGA tour."
Earl Woods said he used his military training to instill in Tiger the discipline and focus that has turned him into a world-renowned golfer. Woods said his son "was always inquisitive about the training I put him through," particularly the "mental-toughness training," and "wanted to know where that came from."
Tiger Woods said his exposure to the military training his father experienced "sheds a whole new light" on his father's golf instruction methods. Earl Woods said his son's interest in exploring the military firsthand "means a great deal to me," especially because it was conducted at his former training ground, though he said he's "awed by the post and its size" since he was here about 40 years ago.
"I'm very proud of Tiger for supporting our troops and honoring the sacrifice they and their families make for our country," Earl Woods said.
Military family members, too, expressed appreciation that Woods took time from his busy schedule to spend time with them.
"It's amazing that a man like him would make time to run a clinic like this at Fort Bragg," said Command Sgt. Maj. Keith Wilbur from the 18th Aviation Brigade, whose son, Keith, received personal instruction from Tiger Woods. "It shows that he cares and is concerned."
Tiger Woods said his experience to military training has reinforced his deep respect for the men and women in uniform. "It's an honor to walk in my father's footsteps by training with the service men and women at Fort Bragg," he said. "It's an experience I will never forget."