' I Came Here to Win'

Tiger's first professional press conference at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open

By Charlie Kane, Kevin Prise and Ryan Stone

I guess, Hello World, huh?

…Yesterday I confirmed that I decided to become a professional golfer. I did this because I wanted my final round as an amateur to be in the U.S. Amateur Championship, which was a day that I will…treasure for the rest of my life.

Tiger's Opening Remarks

I guess, Hello World, huh?

Well thank you for being here today. Yesterday I confirmed that I decided to become a professional golfer. I did this because I wanted my final round as an amateur to be in the U.S. Amateur Championship, which was a day that I will always remember and also treasure for the rest of my life.

Several weeks ago, I spoke with some very special people … my parents. I told them that after a frustrating and painful process, that I was struggling with a decision to become a professional golfer. Then, I spoke with a very few close friends, whose advice and counsel I trust and respect, and told them of my thoughts. The reactions of both my parents and friends were similar. They asked serious questions and offered their views. After heated debate, especially with my dad … told me that they would fully support any decision I made.

As you probably know, my parents are very special and unique people. They have raised me well with love, respect, discipline and understanding. I truly believe they have taught me to accept full responsibility of all aspects of my life. Their teaching and love will continue to guide me as I enter the world as a professional golfer. I am pleased that they will be on hand to share this phase of my life. I love you both, for all the love, respect and sacrifices you have made for me, especially for your support of this very difficult decision. Without you both, I could not have possibly have achieved and grown as I have. You’re the best.

My commitment to you, to do everything in my power to continue to make you proud of me, remembering and relying on the things you taught me. As you in the media know, this has been both an exciting and difficult year for me. The excitement developed out of my continued attendance at Stanford and by virtue of winning the third U.S. Amateur Championship, playing in the Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open.

The difficult part arose out of the need to deal with the question: Should I become a professional golfer and more importantly … when?

Your speculation kept the issue in my mind which created continuing pressure, but also helped me grow and think through all aspects of this decision before making it. Now that it has been made, I hope you will respect and understand how difficult it was and treat it as such.

I truly enjoyed my time at Stanford. I thank the administrations, staff, student body, coach and teammates for the part each played in making attendance a growth experience in my life. I sincerely regret that this phase in my life will be put on hold. Also, as I move from amateur ranks to that of professional, I would like to give special thanks to several organizations, which made major contributions to my development as a golfer.

First, the Southern California Junior Golf Association allowed me to play as a 4-year-old through the age of 13 at some of the best country clubs in the area. This permitted me to compete and play on quality golf courses at a very early age. The American Junior Golf Association is a super organization for continuing my development on great golf courses. Stephen Hamblin and his group provided a national forum for my growth.

Next, the USGA. The chance to compete for a national championship both at the junior and amateur level will always be a highlight of my life.

Last, but not least, thank you Stanford University for giving me the space to broaden my horizons and expand as a person both academically and a student athlete. On occasion, an occasion like this brings to mind many individuals who have been important and made vital and significant contributions to my life. It’s important to thank them, tell them that I feel I am ready to deal with the challenges ahead and ask for their continued support.

I am not sure how well or how long I can respond to your questions, but I will do my best.

Thanks and who will ask the first question?

Close Transcript

Tiger Woods had to borrow the $100 entry fee for his first start as a professional, but the resources committed to covering the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open exceeded that number many times over.

Seven days before the start of the event, ABC wasn’t even planning on being in Wisconsin. But as ratings for Woods’ third consecutive U.S. Amateur victory more than doubled those of the same week’s PGA TOUR event, the network couldn’t pass up the chance to broadcast the professional debut of arguably the most-hyped young player in professional golf history.

Jimmy Roberts was on-site and delivered a video essay to a worldwide audience, touching on everything from Woods’ good looks and charisma to the already-pressing expectations of luring more African-Americans to the game.

Red alert for TV: Jimmy Roberts explains
Red alert for TV: Jimmy Roberts explains

If he gets halfway to the early career start of Nicklaus, he will indeed be the 90’s genius.

Peter Alliss, ABC Commentator, 1996

Duffy Waldorf was one of the longest hitters on the PGA TOUR – he had been ranked as high as third for a full season – and at the age of 34, he was by no means past his athletic prime.

Then he played with Tiger Woods in the Wednesday pro-am at the Greater Milwaukee Open, and quickly realized that Woods was hitting it 30 yards past him.

“And he made it look pretty easy,” Waldorf remembers with a laugh.

The Waldorf-Woods pro-am pairing was set before Woods turned professional early that week, as Woods had been offered a spot in the event regardless.

Waldorf notes that if Woods had stayed amateur, he would have played off a plus-4 handicap during the pro-am. Since he had turned pro, though, he would need to forfeit the handicap. It was a convenient icebreaker on the first tee.

“My first comment to Tiger was, ‘Well, Tiger, you picked up four shots by turning pro,’” Waldorf said. “’We’re playing even today, so you’ve got to be a 0 handicap.’ Because as an amateur, he had a handicap.”

Woods and Waldorf during Wednesday's pro-am
Woods and Waldorf during Wednesday's pro-am

Obviously Tiger Woods has the ability or the potential to start dominating.

Phil Mickelson, 1996

Waldorf recalls Woods’ game as being “very strong” during the pro-am round, and being impressed with Woods’ maturity both on the course and with the media. The conversation between the two wasn’t particularly memorable, as each focused on interacting with their pro-am partners.

Waldorf remembers one thing, though: he thanked Woods for turning pro.

“I was glad he turned pro,” Waldorf remembers, 20 years later. “He was a big plus to our TOUR at that point, and as it turns out, it was a big deal.”

It certainly was. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats, and the ‘Tiger boom’ led to increased television revenues, increased event purses, more lucrative endorsement opportunities, and so on.

Waldorf didn’t need to wait long to benefit from Woods’ presence, either. At the final event of the 1996 season, Woods dueled Payne Stewart down the stretch. If Stewart won, he would supplant Waldorf in the field at the season-ending TOUR Championship. A Woods victory would keep Waldorf in the field.

Woods won.

“He paid me back for that practice round,” Waldorf said.

The sky's the limit for him. I think he could win as many times as he wants to win.

Kenny Perry, 1996

Next Chapter