Golf by its very nature for me, causes me to do a lot self reflection. I remember the first time I broke 100, the first time I broke 90, and the first time I broke (80), still today my lowest personal best a 37/38 split score for a 77 (in the fall of 2017), and admittedly I never thought I’d actually achieve the last milestone. The crazy part about this game is we never actually get satisfied, no matter how much we all progress, we get greedy and continually feel the need to get better and better.
My introduction into golf really occurred at 2 different periods of my life. The first time I started watching golf (spring of 1997) and then 15 years later, in the (spring of 2012) when I started to actually play golf regularly.
I’ll begin with the first time I started to actually watch golf. Growing up I played basketball. It was the first sport I really loved to play. A main stream team sport, it was fast paced, up and down the court, lots of scoring, lots of movement, plenty of athleticism. I remember vividly the spring of 1997 even to this day, 2018, nearly 21 years later. As a hoops head at the time, I remember actually being annoyed that March Madness, the Final Four, and the end of the NBA regular season playoffs wasn’t getting its usually heavy coverage on Sports Center. It was early April and you had the peak of the NBA regular season heading into playoffs, start of baseball season, but a lot of the sports coverage was on GOLF of all sports. I don’t think I even considered GOLF a sport, more of a game to me. There was all this buzz about a young phenom named Tiger Woods. I didn’t know much about this Tiger Woods except that he was young, 21 years old, new to professional golf, and that he was black. I never really watched golf at all before this 1997 Masters, kind of boring, really slow, plenty of standing around, felt like they took years to putt. I decided to tune into the Sunday final round to see what all the hype over this kid was about.
Wow. Is this kid for real? Look at him. Black pants, red shirt, strutting around Augusta National like he owns the place. Look at his body. Tiger at 21 had this long, slender, wirey frame, he looks like an athlete. The competitors, they just looked like golfers, old, fat, rich, conservative white dudes, boring. What was amazing to watch that final round is he might as well been playing alone. Nobody was near him in the standings. He would go onto win that tournament by a record 12 strokes, setting a four day scoring record at Augusta National of 270, that is still the lowest 4 day total to this day. He didn’t just slaughter the field that week, his 4 day total let the golfing world know right then and there, it’s my world now your all just sort of here for the ride. Colin Montgomerie was paired with Tiger on the Saturday round and I think was tied for the lead after 2 days, and thought he could intimidate the young kid with his experience, and knowledge of the course. I still laugh at the post-round press conference when they interviewed Mr. Colin Montgomery:
The young Tiger Woods made that dude look silly. Look at Tiger, he’s young, slender, athletic, immensely talented ATHLETE, and you’re gonna beat him? Good luck Mr Montgomerie, your a fat old british dude with curly hair and B cups. They might as well have paired him with Mrs. Doubtfire. It wasn’t just that Tiger won, it was the way and fashion that he did it. Even to the novice golfing spectator that I was at this time, 10th grade, sophomore year of high school, it was clearly evident that I wasn’t watching just a golf tournament, I was witnessing history. If you want to take a moment to reflect on that tournament the link below gives a great 8 minute summary:
It was also clear there was a bit of a backlash in the golfing world to this young phenom. Golf is a game that is traditionally played by rich, upper-class, conservative white men. The young black kid taking a match to the 4 day scoring records at their most coveted course, definitely ruffled more than a few feathers. The next year Fuzzy Zoeller’s comments were frowned upon, but I’m sure there were plenty other golfers who felt the same way, but didn’t vocalize it. Either way, from that 1997 Masters to today, anytime Tiger Woods tees it up, it’s must see TV.