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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Man who molded a legend dies
EARL WOODS: MARCH 5, 1932-MAY 3, 2006: Tiger Woods' father, who had battled cancer, is described by his son as his best friend and role model.
By BOB HARIG
Published May 4, 2006
At times, he sounded like any proud parent. Earl Woods predicted greatness for son Tiger in and out of golf. Sometimes he was ridiculed for it. Sometimes it seemed like too much bluster. But he never wavered.
And it would be hard to prove him wrong today.
Earl Woods, who helped mold his son into one of the greatest golfers of all time, died Wednesday morning at his home in Cypress, Calif. He was 74 (March 5, 1932) and had been in poor health for several years.
"My dad was my best friend and greatest role model, and I will miss him deeply," Woods said on his Web site. "I'm overwhelmed when I think of all the great things he accomplished in his life. He was an amazing dad, coach, mentor, soldier, husband and friend. I wouldn't be where I am today without him, and I'm honored to continue his legacy of sharing and caring."
Woods is just 30 years old, but in less than 10 years as a pro he has won 48 PGA Tour events and 10 major championships while becoming one of the most famous people in the world. He has amassed multimillions from prize money and endorsements.
And none of it seemed to surprise Earl.
"I saw this happening," Earl Woods said in a 1996 interview with the Times. "I used to say to the guys when I got out of the service more than 20 years ago, there is going to come along a golfer who hits the ball as long as Andy Bean. He's going to putt like Ben Crenshaw, hit the irons like Johnny Miller. And manage his game and have the mental toughness like Jack Nicklaus.
"In other words, he will have everything. They used to say, "Ah, no, nobody is going to come along like that.' And I would argue. Golf is getting more athletic people all the time. It's just a matter of time before a superstar chooses golf.
"Little did I know I was talking about my own son."
Nicklaus, whose 18 major titles Woods is chasing, was 30 when he lost his father and said in a statement that he long "admired and related to the close bond" shared by Earl and Tiger.
"My father was my best friend, my mentor and perhaps my greatest support system," Nicklaus said. "Earl was all of that to Tiger."
Tiger grew up in Cypress, a town 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles, under the watchful eye of Earl and his wife Kultida. He met her during a second tour of duty in Vietnam, where he fought alongside a South Vietnamese army colonel whom he nicknamed "Tiger," later saying he would name a son after him.
Eldrick "Tiger" Wood was born Dec. 30, 1975. When he was 18 months old, his mother took him to the nine-hole Navy Golf Club after Tiger had spent hours hitting balls into a practice net in the garage with his dad. As a toddler, he appeared on CBS News and the Mike Douglas Show, where he putted with Bob Hope. At age 3, he shot 48 for nine holes.
Earl said he knew from Day 1 Tiger was a great athlete, but he never pushed his son. He heard stories about Marv Marinovich, who regulated son Todd's diet and tried to structure his life to produce a great quarterback. (Marinovich played at USC and briefly in the NFL.)
"I read the reports of what his father used to do," Earl said. "And I was diametrically opposed to it. I said, "No way in hell will I raise my son like that. My son will do it because he wants to do it, not because he has to do it.' "He's the story. I don't care if he became a plumber. He totally selected golf himself. That's what he wanted to focus on. All during his youth, my job was to make sure that he was not in over his head. There are two important things I'm proud of: I never asked Tiger to practice; he always asked me. And I never asked him to do his homework. He was always a totally self-motivated kid."
Earl Woods, a catcher for Kansas State and the first black baseball player in the Big Eight Conference before graduating in 1953 with a degree in sociology, did strive to help Tiger become good at his chosen sport. He would jingle change his pockets and talk in the middle of Tiger's backswing, all to make his son mentally tougher.
Tiger turned pro at age 20 after a stellar amateur career during which he won three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles. He won his fifth pro tournament and two of his first seven starts and finished in the top five in five straight tournaments, something that had not been done since 1982.
"You haven't seen anything yet. You've only seen the tip of the iceberg."
Earl raised eyebrows when he was quoted in a late 1996 Sports Illustrated article in which Woods was named Sportsman of the Year, saying, "Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity.
"He's the bridge between the East and the West. There is no limit because he has the guidance. I don't know yet exactly what form this will take. But he is the Chosen One. He'll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power."
A few months later, April 1997, Earl greeted his son on the 18th green at Augusta National as Tiger become the youngest to win the Masters.
Earl played a prominent role in helping his son establish the Tiger Woods Foundation and the recently opened Learning Center in southern California. He was chairman of the foundation and president of the ETW Corp., which handles Tiger's business affairs. He also was present for many of Tiger's victories, although his health in recent years made it more difficult.
He traveled to Augusta for the 2005 Masters but was unable to be at the course when Tiger won it for the fourth time. Afterward, a tearful Tiger said, "This is for dad. Every year he's been here to give me a hug. He wasn't here today. I can't wait to get home to see him and give him a big bear hug."
Tiger did not offer much publicly about his father's condition, but in March he left Ponte Vedra Beach suddenly, flew to California to be with his dad and returned just before the Players Championship.
Earl Woods, a habitual smoker, had heart bypass surgery in the late 1980s and was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998. It returned in 2004 and spread throughout his body. The last tournament he attended was the 2004 Target World Challenge, which Tiger won, donating the $1.25-million to his foundation, the one his dad helped him start.