The story behind Tiger’s name

Several days ago, I spent about an hour or so watching Eldrick with my memory flipping back to some pictures of him in my mind from years ago, also seeing him then on television.

To be specific when I saw him back then was April 13, 1997, and this year, 22 years and one day later, I had watched him again – both times he was in Augusta, Georgia. By now you probably know that I am referring to Tiger Woods whose full name is: Eldrick Tont Woods.

His real first name and his nickname both tell a bit about his family origins. His mother has explained that the “E” in Eldrick was to honor his father, Earl Woods, while the “k” at the end honors his mother, Kultida, “Tida.” From an earlier marriage, Earl had three other children, two sons and a daughter.

Tiger became his nickname in honor of a good friend of his father, Col. Vuong Dang Phong. Earl, a Green Beret, had served time in Vietnam as the American adviser to Col. Phong who served as the Deputy Chief for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Earl had nicknamed the Colonel “Tiger” based on the Colonel’s strengths as a Korean officer, including the earned loyalty he had from the men who served under him. They had been very close friends, separated, of course, as the war wore down in the early 1970s.

Earl had met Tida in 1968 in Thailand. I find it coincidental that Tiger was born (Dec. 30, 1975) in the same year as the end of the Vietnam War (April 30, 1975, when the U.S. troops departed Saigon.)

Tiger’s 1997 win of the Masters was by a whopping 12 stroke margin in a major – second only to a 13 stroke margin won in a major back in 1862 by Tom Morris (any golf trivia fans ever heard of him?) With an 18-under-par total of 270 Tiger had also broken Jack Nicklaus’ record from 32 years before of a 17-under-par total of 271. He was the youngest golfer to win the Masters and the first person of Asian or African heritage to win a major.

Note that Tiger’s dad Earl was African-American with possibly a bit of American Indian. His mother Tida was Thai, Chinese and possibly a bit of Dutch ancestry. Tiger himself has said he was of Cablinasian ancestry: Caucasian-Black-American Indian-Asian.

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I have never really cared much for golf being fairly inept at it, but through the years I have at least heard a few names and both my father and my brother were at least weekend golfers.

The big name from my early adulthood was Jack Nicklaus who still holds some records that Tiger may yet eclipse In addition to what I mentioned earlier, Tiger won this year at age 43, second oldest to Nicklaus’ win at age 46. Nicklaus also has six green jackets awarded by winning the Masters Tournament, compared to Tiger who this year earned his 5th green jacket. Nicklaus has won 18 majors compared to 15 for Tiger.

Tiger has held the No. 1 ranking for over 680 weeks. He holds the record for most consecutive weeks in the No. 1 ranking. He had major surgery on his back in 2014, 2015, and 2017. His ranking had been 1199 in December of 2017, but by September of 2018 he was back to a 13 ranking! He also was the youngest player to ever win the Grand Slam – all four majors won in one year.

As most of you know, Tiger has had ups and downs in his personal and professional life. It has been 14 years between now and his last Masters title and 11 years from his last major win. But hey, the First Place Prize in this year’s Masters was a whopping $2,070,000. This year the Second Place was a three-way tie where each won a still handsome $860,000+.

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A different observation from golf – this one about our weather. Last Wednesday I was out in the storm in the morning, but decided I did not want to have to keep cleaning the snow off the car and having to have a wet garage from the melt when I got home. So by about 10 a.m. I got my car safely in the garage. I did not open a door to go out from that Wednesday morning until about 8 a.m. on Friday.

Though I had been ready for spring, I still marveled at the beauty of the white snowfall, especially looking at the deciduous trees that were heavily flocked and the evergreens with the contrasting green with the white snow heavy on their branches. Made me want to go back to Christmas. It also made me think of Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees.”

Both my wife and my mother-in-law were educated at a time when a lot of poetry was memorized so that now and then they might receive some sort of stimulus that caused a recitation of an appropriate poem such as “Trees.”

I believe my education was partially like that as well and at the right time I can sometimes still remember at least a little of something: “I think I shall never see, A poem lovely as a tree…Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”

“Trees” is not considered to be much more than a maudlin rhyme. Its author, Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), was a highly respected journalist and poet, but probably wrote “Trees” as a poem for his five children. Sadly he was killed by a sniper’s bullet at the 2nd Battle of the Marne in WWI at the age of 31.

I thought of his poem on Friday about 10 a.m. when I looked at the deciduous limbs at the tops of the trees where the snow had melted, but the tips all sparkled with fire in the sun as beneath the snow had been ice surrounding the smaller limbs. The ice all melted from the trees by noon.

Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!

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