Earl Woods

Father and first coach of 'Tiger'


Earl Dennison Woods, soldier: born Manhattan, Kansas 5 March 1932; married first 1954 Barbara Hart (two sons, one daughter; marriage dissolved), second Kultida Punsawad (one son); died Cypress, California 3 May 2006.

Earl Woods liked to recall the day in 1976 when his 10-month-old baby boy Eldrick, already nicknamed "Tiger", picked up a putter and whacked a ball into a practice net in the family garage in California. The rest was to become golfing history.

But the former US army Green Beret always insisted that he was not one of those sporting fathers who had dollar signs for eyeballs and pushed his son too hard, too soon. "My purpose in raising Tiger was not to raise a good golfer," he said. "I wanted to raise a good person."

He admitted he had used his experience as a Special Forces interrogator in Vietnam to toughen his son's psyche. But it was young Tiger, he said, showing prodigious talent and passion for the game, who set his own agenda from an early age. "The greatest misconception the public seems to have of me is that I am a dominating, possessive, dictatorial stage father," he said in an interview with Golf Digest magazine. "That is exactly 180 degrees from the truth."

Earl Woods first ran into criticism when he referred to his son as "The Chosen One" and compared him at various times with Mahatma Gandhi, Muhammad Ali and Nelson Mandela. But he insisted he was misquoted on each occasion. What he meant, he said, was

that Tiger is as charismatic and would have an impact upon the world, in a humanitarian aspect, very similar to that of Gandhi . . . he will be like an ambassador at large, without portfolio.

Whether or not he was right on that, he coached his son to beat Bob Hope in a putting contest on a television show when Tiger was only two, and to beat 18-year-olds when he was six, before handing the prodigy over to professional coaches. Earl himself had been 42 before he took up golf, on retirement from the army, but quickly became a scratch player and once shot a nine-under-par 72. As illness began to prevent him from attending tournaments later in life, he said he talked his son through shots by telepathy. Tiger said he often heard his father's voice when lining up a putt.

One of Tiger Woods's most openly emotional moments came after his Augusta Masters victory in 2005. "This one's for you, Pops," he said, looking into a television camera with tears in his eyes.

Earl Dennison Woods was born the youngest of six children in the town of Manhattan, Kansas, in 1932. His father, Miles, died when he was 11 and his mother, Maude, two years later, leaving him to be raised by a sister. He experienced considerable racism at school and at Kansas State University, where he was a star baseball catcher, the first African-American in the college conference, and hoped for a career in the sport. But he knew he would be limited to the nation's "Negro leagues". The major leagues were still closed to black players and Woods had to sit in the back of the bus that took his university team to games.

After he graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1953, he joined the army. He married Barbara Hart in 1954 and had two sons and a daughter but eventually divorced, admitting that he had not spent enough time with his children because of his army career. In a book entitled At All Costs (My Life with the Man behind the Tiger) (2000), his ex-wife accused him of virtually abandoning their three children and later of cutting Tiger off from them.

Earl Woods became a Green Beret in 1960 and served two long combat tours in Vietnam, "escaping death more times than I can remember". Some of that combat was alongside the South Vietnamese army colonel Vuong Dang Phong, whose nickname "Tiger" Earl Woods later bestowed on his own son to honour his friend and comrade.

It was in Thailand, organising rest-and-recreation facilities for US troops, that Woods met Kultida ("Tida") Punsawad, who would become his second wife.

Earl Woods retired with the rank of lieutenant-colonel in 1974 and Tida gave birth to Tiger on 30 December the following year. Tida was, in her own words, "half-Thai, one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter white". Earl described himself as "half-black, one-quarter American-Indian and one-quarter Chinese". Hence Tida's description of Tiger as "the universal child".

As Tiger's success grew, the couple drifted apart, but they remained married and Earl insisted they were "not separated, and still good friends". Earl continued to live in the bungalow in Cypress, California, where Tiger was born and hit that first ball. Earl retained souvenirs of Tiger's childhood and career, including the practice net in the garage, and hoped that the house would one day be turned into a Tiger Woods museum.

Earl Woods was the author of several books on his life with Tiger, including Training a Tiger (1997) and Playing Through (1998). He was also President of the Tiger Woods Foundation, set up to encourage parents' responsibility and involvement in their children's lives and to "celebrate the spirit of inclusion in all aspects of human existence".

"The game of golf can be a metaphor for life," he wrote:

My life, for certain. I have experienced my share of birdies and a few eagles, yet it seems I have encountered more sand traps and bogeys than I care to recall. And as I walk down the 18th fairway of my lifetime, I hold my head high and make no apologies for the decisions and statements I have made.

I have been a survivor, a living testimony that others like me can beat the odds, withstand the cruelties, indignities and setbacks that life can offer.

Phil Davison

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Dynamics CRM Developer (C#, .NET, Dynamics CRM 2011/2013)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Dynamics CRM D...

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?