Tiger Woods cries while speaking on stage during the World Golf Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Photo by PGA Tour

Tiger Woods was hailed for a transcendent career that has seen him capture 15 major titles, second only to the career-record 18 of Jack Nicklaus.

A tearful Tiger Woods recalled fighting racism as a youth and the support of his parents on Wednesday 9 March in an emotional induction ceremony to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Tiger was hailed for a transcendent career that has seen him capture 15 major titles, second only to the career-record 18 of Jack Nicklaus, and win 82 US PGA Tour titles, level with Sam Snead for the all-time record.

He thanked instructors, caddies, friends and family — many of them in attendance — for the support that helped him turn childhood dreams into a historic sport career.

“I didn’t get here alone,” Woods said. “I had unbelievable parents, mentors and friends who supported me in the darkest of times and celebrated the highest of times.

“It’s actually a team award. All of you allowed me to get here and I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

The 46-year-old American was among four enshrined in a ceremony at US PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, joined by former PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, the late pioneer golf course developer Marion Hollins and four-time women’s major winner Susie Maxwell Berning.

After being introduced by his 14-year-old daughter Sam, an emotional Tiger – widely considered as the best golfer of his generation – joked that he had already lost a bet that he would not cry.

“I just lost a bet to (PGA veteran Steve) Stricker I wouldn’t cry.”

He recalled having to search for lost golf balls to practice with as a child and his inspirational late father Earl telling him to stop putting for quarters, so “I come home a week later, I had a pocket full of dollars.”

“One of the things that drove me was his passion to play the game of golf,” Woods said of his dad.

Woods was stung by racism when denied access to clubhouses, so he changed shoes in the parking lot.

“I was denied access into the clubhouses. That’s fine. Put my shoes on here in the parking lot. I asked two questions only, that was it. Where was the first tee, and what was the course record? Not complicated.” Woods recounted.

“You had to be twice as good to get half a chance (so) I made practice so hard, hurt so much, because I want to make sure I was ready come game time.

“I was not allowed into the clubhouses. The colour of my skin dictated that… As I got older that drove me even more.”

“Playing at some of these golf courses, I was not allowed in the clubhouses … the colour of my skin dictated that … as I got older that drove me even more.”

While his father taught golf, his mother Kultida infused him with toughness that would serve him well in the decades of competition to come.

Tiger said he would not have become a legend “without the sacrifices of mom and dad, who instilled in me this work ethic to fight for what I believe in, to chase after my dreams.”

“Nothing is ever going to be given to you. Everything is going to be earned. If you don’t go out and put in the work, the effort, one you’re not going to get the results and two, and more important, you don’t deserve it. You didn’t earn it,” Woods said.

He broke down recalling his parents taking out a second mortgage on their home so he could play junior events, crying as he recalled getting sponsor deals and prize money so “the first thing I was able to do was to pay off that mortgage.”

Tiger was a three-time US Amateur champion who turned professional in 1996 at age 20. In 1997, he won the Masters by 12 strokes in an epic performance to become the first Black golfer to win a major title. Two months later, he became world number one for the first time.

He dominated golf for the next decade, including a run of four consecutive major titles starting at the 2000 US Open and concluding with the 2001 Masters — the ‘Tiger Slam’.

In all, he has won the Masters five times, the PGA Championship four times and the US Open and British Open three times each.

‘You’re a fighter’ 
There were hardships. He admitted affairs with multiple mistresses in December 2009 and was divorced from Elin Nordegren in August 2010.

Tiger struggled with knee and back injuries and underwent multiple surgeries on both, wondering if he would ever live without back pain before a 2017 operation enabled him to play again, ending a five-year victory drought at the 2018 Tour Championship.

In 2019, he won the Masters for his first major title since the 2008 US Open, hugging children Sam and Charlie off the 18th green at Augusta National the way he had hugged his parents there after his 1997 Masters triumph.

He suffered severe leg injuries in a single-car crash in February 2021 and continues to recover, saying he hopes to be able to play a few events each year but so far giving no timetable for a possible return.

Sam, as she presented her father as a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, said, “Dad, I inducted you into the Dad Hall of Fame long time ago.”

Tiger joined his daughter on stage, melted into her arms and lost it.

The same Tiger Woods who used to sear burn marks into his competitors en route to his record 82 career wins, including 15 major championships, became weak-kneed at the sight of his daughter authoring that marvellously poignant moment.

Sam, fittingly dressed in red, was as poised in her speech and presentation as her father used to be while turning out 54-hole leads into wins while donning his Sunday red.

In her speech, she told an amazing story about the day she was born, the same day of the final round of the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, where Angel Cabrera won.

“In 2007, my dad got himself in position to make an 18-foot putt to force a U.S. Open playoff, which he missed by a foot,” she recalled. “He then had to rush to the airport, flew from Pittsburgh to Orlando and drove to the Winnie Palmer Hospital. Within five minutes of walking into the hospital room, still wearing his red golf shirt, on June 18th, I was born.

“He may have lost that day, but he won the greatest gift of all.”

Those words, as they should have, brought down the house, which was filled with a who’s-who of PGA Tour stars.

Sam dominated the night the way her dad used to dominate on the golf course, and it moved him to tears.

The most powerfully emotional moment came when she recounted her father’s car crash in February 2021 that required multiple surgeries to his right leg and has kept him from competing on the PGA Tour.

“We didn’t know if he’d come home with two legs or not,” she said. “Not only are you being inducted into the hall of fame, but you’re standing here on your own two feet.

“This is why you deserve this, because you’re a fighter. You’ve defied the odds every time (including) being able to walk just a few months after your crash.”– AFP -firstpost.com- additional reporting by Mark Cannizzaro-nypost.com

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