Tiger Woods’ Hall of Fame speech focused on family
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Written by Sean Martin @PGATOURSMartin
Tiger Woods’ World Golf Hall of Fame acceptance speech
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – “Train hard. Fight easy.”
It’s a military mantra that Earl Woods, who served in Vietnam as a Green Beret, passed to his son, Tiger. Now, Tiger uses it to inspire his children in their own athletic endeavors.
The message is simple: the more intense the preparation, the easier the task becomes. Tiger’s daughter, Sam, shared it while introducing her father at Wednesday’s World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Those words shaped Tiger’s approach to golf, and it changed the game, bringing a newfound emphasis on physical training to what had been a country-club sport.
“I made practicing so difficult, hurt so much, because I wanted to make sure that I was ready come game time,” Tiger said. “I hit thousands of balls, hands bleeding, aching, just so that I could play in a tournament.”
The fruit of all those long hours – the record-tying 82 PGA TOUR wins and 15 major championships – earned him his spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame on Wednesday, as Woods was inducted alongside former PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem, three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Susie Maxwell Berning and pioneer Marion Hollins in a ceremony at PGA TOUR headquarters.
Tiger spoke for approximately 15 minutes at Wednesday’s ceremony, making it the longest we’ve seen him speak in public uninterrupted. He didn’t fill those 15 minutes with stories from his 15 major triumphs, though. This opportunity to reflect on his career was filled with stories from his earliest days, showing that his fondest memories are from the days before he was famous. All of the anecdotes he shared were confined to the first half of his life, none of them occurring after 1999.
Woods’ spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame has been guaranteed for two decades. But it certainly means more now. Twenty years ago, it would have been just another accomplishment to add to the resume. There isn’t time to reflect while you’re creating history. But now that Tiger is a parent, a survivor and a man who’s experienced the full spectrum of life’s experiences, it made his induction more meaningful.
“We didn’t know if you’d come home with two legs or not,” Sam said. “Now, not only are you about to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but you’re standing on your own two feet. This is why you deserve this, because you’re a fighter.”
Berning said in Wednesday’s speech that she earned just $16,000 combined in her three U.S. Women’s Open wins. She asked Tiger if he’d like to trade just one paycheck. But it was clear Wednesday moments in the game that were most important to him didn’t earn him a dollar.
He told stories of sneaking on the Navy Golf Course to play with his father and about the second mortgage that his parents took out so that he could travel the country to play junior events. Paying off that debt was one of the first things he did after he turned pro. Tiger teared up twice during Wednesday’s speech, after Sam introduced him and when he looked at his mother.
The victories he did discuss were the ones on the putting green at the Heartwell Golf Park in Long Beach, California, where he won quarters, and then dollars, in putting contests. He talked about playing in the dark with his dad until they lost a golf ball.
Those rounds in the moonlight obviously meant more than the years in the spotlight. Woods’ favorite memories clearly occurred before his passion became a profession. Wednesday’s ceremony was about celebrating lives that defined golf. But golf did not define their lives.
“This is an individual award, but it's actually a team award,” Tiger said. “All of you allowed me to get here.”
And those people are more important than any trophy.
Sean Martin manages PGATOUR.COM’s staff of writers as the Lead, Editorial. He covered all levels of competitive golf at Golfweek Magazine for seven years, including tournaments on four continents, before coming to the PGA TOUR in 2013. Follow Sean Martin on Twitter.