Why Tiger Woods is BIGGER than The Masters
A week ago, one of the greatest things in golf history happened – Tiger Woods won The Masters for the fifth time at the age of 43! As usual when Tiger wins, that’s all everyone can talk about. When I mean everybody, I’m referring to non-golfers too. People mentioned Tiger at the dentist, my gym, my bank, even a random security guard I met on the way to a meeting! As soon as people knew I was a golfer, they wanted to prove their golf prowess by mentioning Tiger. And each conversation ended with the ask, “can you give me or someone I know golf lessons? I think I want to get into it”. Now I get this question from time to time, but I’ve never been asked as much in my daily travels as I have this week. I should also mention that each of the people who asked were female, Hispanic, Black, or had children. How interesting some of the most underrepresented groups are showing an interest, right!
Another observation from the event was the lack of diversity in the crowd. Augusta National, where The Masters is held, prides themselves on tradition. Those traditions have included no females or people of color could be members. Although the club has opened their membership to select people from these groups and hosted a Women’s Amateur Tournament this year, it’s clear from looking at the crowd that golf is still appealing to a predominantly white audience. Hence, none of the people that spoke to me mentioned The Masters or Augusta National. They just knew Tiger won!
The influence that Tiger Woods has on the sport of golf is referred to as the “Tiger Effect”. A term coined in the early 2000’s when Tiger dominated the competition. He affected not only the viewership of golf, but also the growth of the game. I was an instructor for a junior golf program called the Greater Cleveland Junior Golf Scholarship Fund, Inc between 2003 - 2015. This 38-year-old group already targeted minority youth, but most of the participants had parents who played golf. When Tiger became successful on the PGA Tour, we immediately grew from roughly 40 to 75 participants in one summer.
Most of our newer participants were a bit on the younger side (ages 5 – 12) and came from families who never played golf before. This was a new challenge for us because now we couldn’t just teach golf skills – we had to teach parents on etiquette, score keeping, proper golf attire, etc. I remember implementing the three-scorecard rule for parents who wanted their beginner to advance to playing on the course. The three-scorecard rule required the parent to take their junior out to practice at least three times with a goal of them scoring 65 or lower on the Par 3 course. We even offered to reimburse them for the green fees. Once they turned in their three score cards, the student could go out on the course with experience players to see if they could shoot 65 or lower. If they were successful, they were promoted to play weekly on the course. If not, they would continue playing alternate shot (team golf) with the other beginners on a weekly basis. We had to implement this procedure because our golf clinics were only on Saturdays and parents assumed that was the only time the student needed to work on their game to improve.
Today, we see a lot of diversity when we watch the Drive, Chip, and Putt contest. This growth should be attributed to the “Tiger Effect”. His story of being raised by middle class parents and starting at the age of three to become a golf phenomenon resonates with underrepresented groups. And there’s no doubt that his recent success will once again affect the growth of organizations like The First Tee, LPGA*USGA Girls Golf, and U.S. Kids Golf this summer. We can only hope he continues to have success, so the golf industry can get a much-needed resuscitation.