With great fanfare, Tiger Woods enters the Golf Hall of Fame.
The news today that the MLB has finally reached an agreement with the Players Association to end the lockout quickly approaching day 99 was met with much celebration in the world of professional sports.
It is quite a relief for fans who have been growing anxious about the season. The lock-out was putting a damper on many an already darkening outlook, given the uncertain state of the world in 2022, at home and abroad.
For many, the warming weather means Spring training camps, expo games and the Major League Baseball season moving into full swing; a blissful return to a sliver of normalcy, to the pleasures of childhood and good-natured bonding over a national pastime.
As the world has grappled with COVID19, and other challenges like Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan, sports have been a much-needed respite for many, an escape from the pressure of lives growing more and more stressful.
Sports enthusiasts, old and new, who don’t think about baseball when the warmer weather first hits, and some who do, think about golf.
Golfers of every age and description- from the swaggering country club golf pro to the youngest future golfer wildly swinging a putter- eagerly watched on Wednesday as a living sports legend who refined and redefined the game of golf, several times throughout his long and storied career, was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame.
Visibly moved, Tiger Woods accepted the award presented by his daughter. His acceptance speech touched on some of the struggles which have defined his golfing journey.
Since he first burst onto the golf scene at the age of 2, Woods has made no secret of the outsize role his mother and father played in his success.
“I know that golf is an individual sport,” Woods said during his speech. “We do things on our own a lot for hours on end, but in my case, I didn’t get here alone.”
“I had unbelievable parents, mentors, friends, who allowed me and supported me in the toughest times, the darkest of times, and celebrating the highest of times,” Woods admitted of his upbringing.
“Without the sacrifices of Mom who took me to all those junior golf tournaments, and Dad, who’s not here, but who instilled in me this work ethic to fight for what I believe in, chase after my dreams, nothing’s ever going to be given to you, everything’s going to be earned,” a choked-up Tiger Woods told the audience. “If you don’t go out there and put in the work, you don’t go out and put in the effort; one, you’re not going to get the results, but two, and more importantly, you don’t deserve it.”
“You need to earn it,” Woods said of his formative years. “That defined my upbringing; that defined my career.”
And what a career it has been.
“The list of his feats stretches out as long as one of his drives from his heyday,” noted Steve DiMegilo for USA Today, listing, “the record-tying 82 PGA Tour titles, the 15 major championships. A record 142 consecutive cuts made, a record 683 weeks — 13 years — atop the official world rankings. A record 11 PGA Tour Player of the Year Awards,” before giving up and just admitting the, “list goes on and on.”
“I had this burning desire to be able to express myself in this game of golf,” Woods said of his own astounding success. “One of the things that Dad had instilled in me is that he grew up in the same era as Charlie Sifford,” Woods said, referring to the first Black member of the PGA.
“Why my son’s name is Charlie is that you had to be twice as good to be given half a chance,” Woods continued.
“I made practicing so difficult, hurt so much, because I wanted to make sure that I was ready come game time,” he recalled. “I hit thousands of balls, hands bleeding, aching, just so that I could play in a tournament.”
Reflecting on the many successes of Tiger Woods- a transformative figure who earned bigger paydays, and bigger audiences, for the sport of golf than any other player in history- provides a much needed moment of levity for a nation grown melancholy on two years of pandemic living followed by two months of war drums.
Americans have leaned over the past two years what other survivors of terrible eras throughout history have had to learn. Every triumphant return to normalcy, or even moments reminiscent of normalcy deserve to be savored. This is not out of a sense of callousness, or a lack of sympathy for our fellow humans and for all the suffering currently at work in the world, but because of that suffering and our sympathy to it.
Celebrating the accomplishments of a legendary and groundbreaking athlete like Tiger Woods isn’t insignificant in the grand scheme of things, a frivolous pursuit in a world beset by the tyranny of evil men.
When good people stand up to evil, it is ultimately for the right to celebrate and enjoy the simple pleasures afforded by peace, prosperity and safety; pleasures like playing a game of golf or catch, or honoring the contributions of a man who transformed the game of golf from an elitist ivory tower into a game suitable for anyone with a good eye and a steady hand.
The lifetime accomplishments of Tiger Woods, like the accomplishments of humanity itself, have been marked by trial and tribulation. Woods’ story is the human story; of overcoming obstacles to achieve greatness, however long the night, come what may.
“About a year ago, you were stuck in a hospital bed at one of your ultimate lows and one of the scariest moments of your life and ours,” Tiger Woods’ daughter said while introducing her father, referring to a car accident in 2021 which almost cost the golfer a leg. “We didn’t know if you’d come home with two legs or not.”
“Now, not only are you about to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but you’re standing here on your own two feet,” she continued before presenting the award. “This is why you deserve this; because you’re a fighter.”
Watching Tiger Woods inducted to the Golf Hall of Fame- after set-backs, come-backs and catastrophes- inspires us to be fighters, too.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)