Month of the Military Child: Tiger Woods Reflects Dad's Values
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 13, 2006 By many people's assessments, concerns about his ailing father probably lost the Masters Tournament earlier this week for Tiger Woods, one of the most celebrated children of U.S. servicemembers.
Superstar golfer Tiger Woods (left) answers questions about his Army experience at Fort Bragg, N.C., during a news conference there following the 2004 Masters Tournament. Beside Woods is his father, retired Army Lt. Col. Earl Woods, who the junior Woods said instilled in him the traits that have made him a champion. Photo by K. Kassens
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Woods, the defending champion, ended up helping winner Phil Mickelson into his green jacket following the April 9 tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. Noticeably missing from the jacket ceremony was retired Army Lt. Col. Earl Woods, Tiger's father and once-constant companion, who is in Cyprus, Calif., suffering from pancreatic cancer.
"I'm very proud of my dad. He's a tremendous fighter, got an unbelievable will," Woods said during an interview in the days leading up to the Augusta tournament.
Two years ago, immediately following the 2004 Masters Tournament, Tiger got a glimpse into that fighting spirit when he and his father reported to Fort Bragg, N.C., the senior Woods' old duty station.
There, Woods traded in his green jacket for an Army battle dress uniform and his golf spikes for combat boots to follow in his father's footsteps and train for four days with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. After the training, the junior Woods hosted the Tiger Woods Foundation's 30th Junior Golf Clinic at the post's Stryker Golf Course, offering one-on-one golf instruction to 84 military children.
Beyond the physical training, marksmanship and close-quarters combat training and the jumps with the Golden Knights parachute team, the senior Woods said he hoped his son took something even more important away from the experience. He wanted Tiger to get a sense of how men and women in uniform "look out for each other, support each other and love each other."
The senior Woods first trained at Fort Bragg in 1963 following a tour in Vietnam, and was assigned to a Special Forces Unit there before leaving for another tour in 1970. During that second tour, he served as an adviser to a deputy province chief, Vietnamese Lt. Col. Vuong Phong. Woods nicknamed him "Tiger" for his skills in the field.
Years later, Woods named his son Eldrick "Tiger" Woods after his old friend and began instilling in him his values and sense of commitment. During an interview with Golf Magazine, the senior Woods said he tried to teach his son the lessons he learned in Vietnam and the value of human life and integrity.
Those lessons carried over to the golf course, where the senior Woods used his military training to instill in Tiger the discipline and focus that turned him into a world-renowned golfer. He said his son "was always inquisitive about the training I put him through," particularly the "mental toughness training."
Tiger apparently learned his lessons well, and those who watch his career most closely attribute his mental toughness to his victories, with 10 major championships, including four Masters titles.
During the 2004 clinic at Fort Bragg, Woods compared the physical and mental demands of the military training he received - like that his father used to help hone his golf skills as he was growing up - 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."