Sports Outside the Beltway

Earl Woods Dies at 74

Tiger Woods’ dad, Earl Woods has died of complications from prostate cancer. He was 74.

Earl Woods, who was more determined to raise a good son than a great golfer and became the role model, architect and driving force behind Tiger Woods’ phenomenal career, died Wednesday morning at his home. He was 74.

“My dad was my best friend and greatest role model, and I will miss him deeply,” Tiger Woods said on his website. “I’m overwhelmed when I think of all of 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 was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998 and was treated with radiation, but the cancer returned in 2004 and spread throughout his body. Last month, he was too frail to travel to the Masters for the first time. His son finished tied for third. The last tournament Woods attended was the Target World Challenge in December 2004, when his son rallied to win and then donated $1.25 million to the Tiger Woods Foundation that his father helped him establish.

Earl Woods was more than a golf dad, more than a zealous father who lived vicariously through his son’s achievements. He had played catcher for Kansas State, the first black to play baseball in the Big Eight Conference, and he had been a Green Beret for two tours in Vietnam. But he felt his true purpose was to train Tiger, and he watched his son evolve into the dominant player of his time — the youngest player to win the career Grand Slam — and one of the most celebrated athletes in the world. “I knew Tiger was special the day he was born,” Woods said in a May 2000 interview with The Associated Press.

Woods introduced Tiger to golf by swinging a club as his son watched in a high chair. Tiger appeared on the “Mike Douglas Show” at age 2, played exhibitions with Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus, and his television appeal was solely responsible for quantum gains in PGA Tour prize money.

Even so, Woods said he never intended to create a champion golfer. “I make it very, very clear that my purpose in raising Tiger was not to raise a golfer. I wanted to raise a good person,” Woods told Golf Digest magazine about his book, Training a Tiger: A Father’s Guide to Raising a Winner in Both Golf and Life. Woods gave his son freedom to develop a love for golf on his own, not letting him play unless his homework was done, making him call his father at work to ask if they could practice. Along with the games they played, Woods taught him to be mentally strong by jingling change in his pockets and warning him of water hazards when his son was in the middle of his swing.

Sad news, indeed.

Crossposts: OTB, OTB News, Gone Hollywood

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