‘Eldrick’ by Ray Flannery

I can hear some of you ask just exactly who or what is an Eldrick? and more importantly, what has this to do with RESILIENCE. To make things easier for any person who has no interest in sport or more specifically an interest in the world of golf, or who has just emerged from the rock they have been living under, let me explain. If I don’t, the title of my chapter will have no meaning whatsoever for them. For those people I will refer to Eldrick by his globally known alternative name…TIGER. Yes, the person I would like to base my chapter on, is the one and only Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods. In my opinion, this man is the absolute definition of resilience. I can hear some of you questioning this because Tiger Woods is a phenomenally successful sportsman, who for many years seemed to be absolutely unbeatable. The one person on the planet who had both the talent, mindset, and age on his side to finally surpass the legend that is Jack Nicklaus in his winning of eighteen Majors. To date, this has not come to fruition. YET!

Let’s roll the clock back a few years. Eldrick Woods was born on the 30th of December 1975. His father Earl was a retired U.S. Army officer who met his wife Kultida in Thailand in 1968 when he was deployed there. Earl introduced Tiger to the game of golf before he was two years old. The fact that Earl was in the Army allowed the young Tiger to go to courses owned by the military to practice. In 1978 Tiger had his first TV appearance putting against the legendary comedian Bob Hope. At the age of just eight, Tiger won the 9-10 boys’ event at the Junior World Golf Championship. The prodigy’s light was starting to shine. The first obstacle in the world of Tiger Woods started to raise its ugly head around this time…RACISM. Unbelievably there were certain courses that the rising star was not welcomed to tee it up at, simply due to the fact that he was a person of colour. In some people’s eyes this young athlete had no business attending the facilities that their large bank balances or place in society afforded them the opportunity to become members.

The next factor that crept into the life of the young Tiger Woods was plain and simple JEALOUSY. There were a lot of other players around this time who had served their times on the various tours without ever becoming successful. Now here was this kid setting foot in their backyard and playing their game his way. Tiger had the skill at a very young age to simply hit the ball further, more accurately and more consistently than they could ever imagine. It was also at this time that Tiger started to gain notoriety amongst the golfing elite. This seemingly God given talent was so much given as earned though. Earl Woods was a tough task master who had orchestrated the young Tiger’s fledgling career with military precision. Earl had sneakily put plans into place to have Tiger coached by the current best coaches on the circuit. Earl was ruthless, he lied, harassed, cajoled these coaches into taking a very active part in the career of the prodigy. Hours and hours of practice were put in by Tiger, all within the earshot of Earl. The downside of this practise was the lack of a normal childhood being enjoyed by Tiger. A sacrifice which, in the mind of Earl Woods was going to be worth every millisecond of lost time playing silly games with the other kids. DETERMINATION… The will to succeed and at the same time please his taskmaster father in my mind, are two of the driving forces which led to the determination which has been continuously shown by Tiger throughout his golfing career. If Earl was happy, then Tiger was happy. They say that if you find a job that you love then you will never work a day in your life. In the case of Tiger Woods I am not one hundred per cent sure if this is the case. As a golfer, and I say that in the loosest of terms, I struggle to practice a few times a month. To practice those drills for six or seven hours every day along with attending school and studying demonstrates a level of resilience that only very few can match. Along the way there were a few setbacks, as one would expect but the mantras instilled into the brain of Tiger by Earl would prove enough to get him through.

The success enjoyed by Tiger brought with it the obvious rewards. The college places offered, the endorsements, the contracts though were all masterminded by Earl. At only twenty-one years of age, Tiger became the youngest ever Master’s champion and in doing so winning by the largest ever margin in the tournament’s history. I will not however start to list all of the victories and achievements which can be attributed to Tiger Woods or else this entire volume would be Tiger’s career statistics and nothing else, except to say that in the next decade Tiger would go on to win thirteen of his fifteen Majors. The next decade would paint a different landscape. A series of personal issues married with a list of injuries took its toll on the career of Tiger. All was not rosy in the garden of Tiger Woods. Tiger had married Elin Nordegren, a Swedish former model in 2004. Six years later Tiger and Elin were divorced. Rumours of extramarital affairs had surfaced and were denied in November 2009. Only a few days after these rumours surfaced, Tiger was involved in a collision in his SUV near his home. Initially the injuries were only superficial but then actually ruled him out of playing a charity tournament in which Tiger was the host. As the weeks passed, several more women came forward with claims of affairs. The result of the infidelities and injuries forced Tiger to announce that he would be taking an indefinite break from golf. However, the far reaching result of these admissions caused several companies to re-examine their association with one of the most recognisable faces on the planet. Now don’t get me wrong, this man was never going to be short of a few quid but it wasn’t only the loss of these multi-million endorsements that were going to be affected. His golfing status slumped. His surgery count started to mount, from possible career ending knee and back surgeries. The one time king of the golfing world was now snowballing downhill at a serious rate of knots.

In 2017, Tiger was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. His mugshot appeared globally on every sort of social and print media available. There was going to be no way back from this. Every sports journalist had written his epitaph. The King was no more. That same year Tiger had undergone his fourth back surgery, his career ranking was 1,199. He had even admitted to his friends that he “was done”. The dreams of equalling the 18 Majors was over. The intense rehab needed after the various surgeries, tied in with the hiring and firing of different coaches, his firing of his caddy Steve Williams, the affairs, the arrests, the substance abuse looked like signalling the end.

Amazingly though, someone forgot to give that note to Tiger. The rehab was starting to pay off and not just the physical type. Tiger started yet another comeback in March 2018, after a few near misses, Tiger presented himself in his familiar attire of red top and black trousers in the winners’ circle at East Lake Golf Club. On the 14th of April 2019, Eldrick Tiger Woods won his first Major championship in eleven years which brought his total of major wins to fifteen, the scenes of the swathing crowds walking behind Tiger on the final few holes in Augusta Golf Club still send shivers down my spine. To have overcome all that, he has had to endure, albeit some of them self-inflicted, in my opinion is the very definition of resilience. I truly thought that I was going to witness somebody overhaul the 18 Major milestone, at least I did until the 23rd of February 2021, when Tiger was involved in a serious car crash which resulted in multiple leg injuries and surgery for non-life-threatening injuries. It is unclear as to when or even if Tiger Woods will grace the first tee of another Major tournament. I for one sincerely hope he does. This is probably going to be one of the toughest tests of resilience ever but, if there is anybody on the planet who can see a way of achieving this feat it is ELDRICK TIGER WOODS.

*This is a chapter extract from ‘Mental Health For Millennials Vol 5’ published by Book Hub Publishing. It is available from www.bookhubpublishing.com and on Amazon as both an ebook and paperback. – Please cite author and publisher.

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