I suppose we could
celebrate the life of Earl Woods with a whiskey and ginger ale, which he loved.
Or with jazz, which he loved. Or with a long drag on a cigarette, which he also
loved too much, seeing as how smoking probably figured in his death last week
Or we could do it
with tears, since with Earl there was always more crying than on the first day
of kindergarten. Every time I saw him get up in front of a crowd to talk about
Tiger, he'd wind up bawling. And every time, Tiger would hop up, grab the mike
and go, "That's my Pops. I love him."
I suppose we could
remember Earl as perhaps the most famous black man in America who is celebrated
solely for his fatherhood. In sports, all we hear about is the black father who
runs, but Earl was constantly there, famously there, lovingly there.
couldn't leave the kid's side. He never left him with a babysitter. Wound up
quitting his job for the kid, mortgaged the house twice, took out home equity
loans. He couldn't bear to punish Tiger--that was his wife's job. Earl was
hopelessly in love with the boy he called the chosen one.
You wondered what
Earl's other kids thought of that--the chosen one. Because those three kids
from his first marriage--Earl Jr., 50; Kevin, 48; and daughter Royce, 47--were
not the chosen ones. They hardly knew him. A career Green Beret, he'd be gone
for six months to a year at a time. "I wasn't around," he once told me.
"I'd come back, and I'd find three totally different children."
Maybe Earl didn't
know how to be a father the first time around. He was the youngest of six kids,
and both his parents were dead by the time he was 13. He learned to be alone.
But when he married Kultida, a Thai secretary, and got a mulligan for
fatherhood at 42, he made the most of it.
Earl was fun to
play with--gave me a lesson once, too--and even more fun in the bar afterward.
And Tiger loved his burly playmate from the start. Even as a toddler, he had
his Pops' phone number at the office memorized, so he could call and beg to
play together after Earl got off work. Earl had 1,000 crazy games to play on
the course. He needed to. Tiger was beating him by age 11.
But it killed Earl
to be called "the dad who built the greatest golfer ever." No, he was
trying to build a kid who would be kind and happy and responsible. He gets an
A+ for that. But much trickier still: He kept his Mozart from burning out.
Never once did he
tell Tiger to practice. Never once told him to try harder. He and Tida would
withhold golf if his homework wasn't done. Golf was the dessert Tiger got when
he ate all his vegetables.
and son started a fund of trust. Tiger trusted his dad when Earl tried all his
psychological training on him--dropping his golf bag as Tiger swung, calling
like a crow on his backswing, rolling stray balls at his putter. And Earl
trusted Tiger, who would put his pop four feet in front of him at clinics, have
him hold his hands up like goal posts and hit full flop shots between them.