Meeting Tiger Woods: A father and son tale

Before Tiger Woods turned pro, I met him.  Met him?  I got his autograph.  It was the spring of 1996 and Tiger was playing college golf for Stanford.  He had just played for the second time as an amateur at The Masters and would soon thereafter make his famous pronouncement of 'hello world.'   I took my 12 year old son and my camera to Karstan Golf Course in Tempe, AZ, where a college pro—am was taking place that day.  The players from Stanford and ASU were teeing off with local businessman and other notaries.

Before arriving at the course, we stopped for a McMuffin and orange juice.  There in the fast—food dive were the players for Stanford filling their bellies with pre—cooked egg whites and greasy sausages.  But wait, no, Tiger was not there. 

We chomped down the grub and headed to the course.  I was prepared with two card stocks which contained a pictorial of the Augusta National clubhouse and Masters logo (I had copied it from the Wall Street Journal).  I was also equipped with a green felt permanent marker. 

My son and I parked and started our walk up and down the hilly course that sat in the shadow a large electrical power plant.  It was a beautiful day, probably near 80 degrees without a cloud in sight.  To the north was Scottsdale's famed Camelback mountain.  To the east was the campus of Arizona State and its 40,000 students.  The course, however, was virtually without spectators. 

Upon climbing one more hill, we noticed there, on the next tee box, Tiger Woods in Stanford red.  We watched his tee shot sail into the blue sky.  He then took a seat in his golf cart and waited for the businessmen he was playing with to try their luck.  (They, of course, used the closer tee location).  One of them shot one down the narrow fairway.  Tiger said, 'Good shot.'  That's when I made my move.

I quickly approached his golf cart armed with the two card stocks and green felt writing instrument.  Standing upon him now (he was skinny!), I said, 'Tiger, can I get your autograph?'  He peered up at me and without saying anything, took the paper I was thrusting at him, and the green pen, and signed his autograph just under The Masters logo.  Then, I pushed the second card stock into his hands and said, 'Can I get another?  It's for a guy in the office.'  He signed the second, again, without saying a word.  I retreated to my son on the hill.  I realized the camera was left in the car and there would be no capturing this moment on film; just in our memories.

My office colleague scolded me for approaching Tiger in the middle of a round and, as a result, refused the gift of the second autograph (besides, Tiger had inadvertently left a green 'skid mark' on the page to left of his signature).  My copy sits in a five—dollar frame on my bedroom bookshelf. 

With Tiger winning his fourth green jacket last Sunday, the memory came rushing back.  My 12—year old is now 21.  If he ever gives me two minutes of his time, I'll have to ask him why he left the camera in the car that day.