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Baby Steps

Come summertime, Tiger Woods will add fatherhood to his lengthy resume

By John RegerPublished: February, 2007

The news was expected, but welcome all the same. Tiger Woods and his wife, Elin, are expecting their first child. It could be one of many for the Woods family and, even though it was personal, the first thought by many was how it will affect his golf.

It won’t, at least for any great length of time. Woods is one of the most focused athletes in history, and though it might provide a temporary adjustment to his routine, having a family will only enhance his life.

Woods was raised in a supportive and nurturing family. His father’s legacy is well-chronicled. Earl Woods began teaching Tiger about golf and life at an early age and the two constantly interacted on and off the golf course.

Earl taught Tiger competitive tricks to use against his opponents, relying on his training as a Green Beret. When Tiger was a teenager, father and son started giving clinics to youngsters to pass on some life lessons. It was the origins for the Tiger Woods Foundation, which Earl had called one of his proudest moments as a parent.

Kultida Woods did not get the attention Earl did, but Tiger’s mom was comfortable playing the disciplinarian. Tiger had to have his homework done before he could practice and if he didn’t come home when he was supposed to, it was Kultida who dealt out the punishment.

Balancing parenthood and a professional golf career will be a new lesson Woods must learn, but he has other golfers he can use as blueprints.

The first is Jack Nicklaus, one of the most recognizable professional athletes who was able to raise a family and be a top competitor at the same time.

When his children were young, Nicklaus would often fly back from a tournament on a Friday to catch one of their activities and then return to the event to play his round the next day. When they were adults, they often caddied for him.

Some golfers feel comfortable enough bringing their families on the road. Esteban Toledo, who used to live in Irvine, bought a motorhome and took his wife and two children with him to PGA Tour events during the summer.

Paul Goydos, who lives in Dove Canyon, plans his events around his two daughters’ schedules and rarely has more than three consecutive weeks on the road.

Lee Trevino learned that lesson with his second family. When Trevino played on the PGA Tour, he was rarely home and part of his children’s lives. They resented him for it, and when he remarried and had more children, he took a more active interest in their lives. Now Trevino balances his appearances on the Champions Tour with spending quality time with his family.

Woods has said attending to a newborn won’t be a problem.

“Well, I think that’s the challenge,” he said. “Your life has been changed pretty dramatically. I have one advantage, I don’t sleep much. I guess that’s one thing that’s going for me.”

The baby is due in July, which means Woods might face a decision similar to one Phil Mickelson had at the 1999 U.S. Open. Mickelson’s wife, Amy, was close to giving birth to the couple’s first child, and Mickelson was near the top of the leaderboard. He wore a beeper, and if the beeper had gone off, he said he would have left the golf course to be with his wife.

Woods is the defending champion at the British Open, and hopes that he isn’t forced to make that choice. It’s not known yet what decision he would make, but I would lean toward him coming home to be with his wife.

It’s a balance that Woods will have to learn, but it appears he already has the proper perspective.

“As far as understanding what to do, I think that, hopefully, when that day comes, I’ll be able to perform at a high level, but also more importantly, you know, be a great father.”  SG

John Reger has been covering professional golf since 1995. If you have a question or comment, e-mail him at cascribe@aol.com.