- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2001

People can be demanding. Those who don't have influence can be judgmental of those who do. Tiger Woods has recently taken flak for not being more visible in black political issues. Mr. Woods has chosen to avoid political policies, instead focusing his attention on golf and underprivileged youth. While executing both personal goals, he has helped to rejuvenate interest in a game once considered only for the rich by bringing together people of all classes through his play and personality.
Mr. Woods has shied away from embracing his black roots, opting to term himself a "cablinasian" and direct any focus off ethnicity and onto golf and kids. Mr. Woods' father, Earl, is black and his mother, Kultida, is Thai a mix that Mr. Woods sees as normal in today's United States. Former basketball player and close friend of Mr. Woods, Charles Barkley, pressured Mr. Woods to be more of a role model for black kids, but the golfer remained indifferent to the man who a few years back claimed he didn't need to be a role model.
His critics, some black leaders, and Mr. Barkley alike, want Mr. Woods to focus on his race as a major issue in his life. They desire to see him claim race was a major obstacle in becoming a great golfer and role model for today's youth. Mr. Woods chooses not to. He has infiltrated the world of white golf, taken it in his firm grip and changed the way the world views the game all because of his skill and dedication, and his race.
Mr. Woods has never sought special privilege because of his race, and will never see himself as the lone black gunman in the world of golf (like Arthur Ashe in tennis). He sees himself for what he is the most elite of golfers doing what he can to touch communities in need and that is how he wants others to see and treat him. A look at history shows groups who integrate themselves into life are soon considered part of the American Way. Mr. Woods likely realizes this and instead of separating himself from the world he lives and works in, would simply like to be himself, free to do what he pleases and free to help out those around him. Golfing has afforded him a platform to inspire youth. Mr. Woods does not focus on race, he focuses on people. He knows that his golf will speak for itself, and separating from others will only distance him from people he is trying to help.
Being a missionary to kids is a lofty goal, but one Mr. Woods has taken seriously since starting the Tiger Woods Foundation in 1996, the year he turned professional. His foundation prides itself in serving underprivileged youth through clinics and scholarships. "Through the Tiger Woods Foundation, I'm able to use golf as a vehicle to reach out to children and families," said Mr. Woods in a statement through his foundation. "The foundation actively promotes parental responsibility and involvement in the lives of children." Financial scholarships and personally hosted clinics have been routine for Mr. Woods since his fame afforded him the responsibility of being a role model.
Mr. Woods' skill at inspiring youth, and adults, has done more to promote golf than the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) could have ever dreamed possible otherwise. His encouragement of inner-city and underprivileged youth has given a country-club-world a new brand of enthusiasts. His political statements are made by challenging kids to work with families and fulfill dreams. His prowess on the golf course has opened the game to a wider audience than it has ever enjoyed. Mr. Woods says far more by what he does for the game of golf, and in his foundation's support of more than 100 programs, than he ever could by taking up specific causes.
Trying to take Mr. Woods' focus off golf and onto politics would diminish his effectiveness. His performance on and off the course is what makes him a role model. He molds himself after Michael Jordan (another close friend) and tries not to alienate himself from the public. Mr. Woods would rather encourage the youth through similarities than separate them and focus on differences.
So far his philosophy has panned out. At 25, he has already won five major tournaments and amassed 23 PGA wins. He has become the only golfer in history to hold all four major titles at the same time, a feat propelling him even higher on his pedestal of greatness.
Being only 25, Mr. Woods' impact on golf and the world is only beginning. The sporting world should be grateful their hero is willing to help, and doesn't distance himself from the public and challenges involved in encouraging youth. With people being so demanding on his time, let Mr. Woods golf and impact the youth. He is doing his share.

Timothy Newcomb is an editorial writer for The Washington Times.

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