Monday, July 2, 2007

When Tiger Woods announced in March that he will host a new golf tournament in the Washington area, he also revealed that he intended to do more than just show up and play.

The world’s top-ranked golfer said he expects to use the AT&T National as a vehicle to set up an East Coast operation for his charitable foundation, which focuses on providing educational opportunities for kids.

Chief among Woods’ goals is to set up a new learning center somewhere in the Washington area modeled on the 35,000-square-foot facility built by the foundation in Anaheim, Calif., in 2005. The learning center’s mission is to provide young people in grades four through 12 with extra education in science, math and language arts.

“We have had some amazing success with the learning center, and hopefully [we’ll] be able to do something as special here in the D.C. area with the commitment we have with the Tour and AT&T and obviously with the entire community here,” Woods said. “I think [it] can be pretty impactful and pretty significant. That’s one of the reasons why I am so excited about being here, being able to do something for the kids here in the local community.”

The Tiger Woods Foundation was founded in 1996 by Woods and his late father, Earl. The charity includes several high-profile leaders on its board of directors, such as former Major League Baseball commissioner and current U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Peter Ueberroth and Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle.

While the learning center is the foundation’s largest initiative, other programs include:

c Scholarship and grants directed at children ages 5 to 17.

c A junior golf program geared to young people who don’t normally have the chance to play.

c ”Tiger Jam,” an annual benefit concert at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

c The “Target World Challenge” golf tournament, an event that features 16 of the world’s top players and directs proceeds to the learning center and scholarship initiatives.

Already, Woods and foundation president Greg McLaughlin have considered more than a half-dozen places in the Washington area that could house the new learning center.

Ideally, McLaughlin said, the foundation would place the center in a densely populated area with a mix of incomes. He also said the foundation would explore working with the community to use the center as an anchor for a larger real estate development project.

“We want a community that will embrace something like this and utilize the assets housed in the center to benefit their communities,” McLaughlin said.

The foundation expects to decide upon a location early next year.

Establishing a learning center here in Washington won’t come cheap. The Anaheim facility, which features a 200-seat auditorium, multimedia center and cafe, required $25 million in fund-raising and costs an additional $2 million per year to operate. But the tournament, likely to be one of the most well-attended on tour, is expected to give the foundation a good start.

“We want to put on a first-class golf tournament and raise as much money for charity as we can,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll direct those proceeds to supplemental education and support to help better [children’s] situations and help them become more productive members of society.”

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