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Kansan Earl Woods' Death Changed Things for Tiger

By Marty Keenan
Opinion | December 4, 2009

GREAT BEND, Kan. - If there was a way Tiger Woods could visit his father's grave in Manhattan, Kansas today, I'm sure he would. Earl Woods' always kept a close watch over Tiger, and his death on May 3, 2006 probably had an impact we are only realizing today. Maybe we should have seen it coming.

Earl Woods was an African-American pioneer in his own right. Born and raised in Manhattan, Kansas, Earl Woods was the first African-American baseball player in the Big 7. The Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues showed an interest in signing the catcher to play professional baseball, but Woods turned them down, graduating from college in 1953, and becoming a Green Beret in the Army.

Woods retired from the service as a Lt. Colonel, and he always emphasized discipline and self-control in raising Tiger. In a letter to Great Bend's Frances Burns (widow of Earl's Ban Johnson baseball coach in Great Bend in the summer of 1951) Woods mentions "discipline." He wrote that the discipline he learned from Coach Al Burns in baseball "has helped me in teaching Tiger and has directly contributed to his success."

Until his death in 2006, Earl Woods kept a tight rein over Tiger's friends and associates, and was very protective of him. Most people who knew Earl Woods well, such as Fred Mitchell, co-author of Earl Woods' book "Playing Through", recently wrote in the Chicago Tribune about the private planes and security guards Earl Woods used to protect Tiger. Most people who knew the pair say it is inconceivable that Tiger would find himself in this mess if his Dad's steadying hand was still there for him.

Some say that after his father's death, Tiger had "no one left to disappoint." Recent events seem to run totally counter to what people once admired about Tiger Woods---his concentration, discipline, and dedication. Tiger didn't really "leave the nest" to be on his own until his father's death. Many called Earl Woods' a "controlling parent," but it would be hard to argue with his success in raising a golf champion. Although Tiger's Dad is no longer here to be disappointed in his son, Tiger has let down millions of others---mostly his wife and children.


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