(March 5, 1932 – May 3, 2006)
Earl Woods, who was more determined to raise a good son than a great golfer and became the architect and driving force behind Tiger Woods’ phenomenal career, died Wednesday morning at his home in Cypress, Calif. He was 74.
"My dad was my best friend and greatest role model, and I will miss him deeply," Tiger Woods said on his Web site. "I’m overwhelmed when I think of all of the great things he accomplished in his life. He was an amazing dad, coach, mentor, soldier, husband and friend. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him, and I’m honored to continue his legacy of sharing and caring."
A habitual smoker who had heart bypass surgery in 1986, Woods was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998 and was treated with radiation. But the cancer returned in 2004 and spread throughout his body.
Last month, he was too frail to travel to the Masters for the first time.
Woods was born and raised in Manhattan, Kansas. After being orphaned at age 13, he was raised by his sister. Woods attended Kansas State University on a baseball scholarship. While at Kansas State, Woods, of mixed Black, Chinese and Native American ancestry, broke the "color barrier" in baseball in the Big Seven Conference in 1951. Woods played catcher, and was good enough that the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues offered him a contract. However, he rejected the Monarchs, graduated from college in 1953, and started a career in the U.S. Army.
Woods served two full tours of duty in the Vietnam War, the second as part of the elite Green Berets. While serving in Vietnam, Woods met his future wife, Kultida Woods, who is of mixed Thai, Chinese, and Dutch ancestry. He also became fast friends with Vuong Dang (Tiger) Phong, a Vietnamese Army Colonel. It was this friendship that led Woods to nickname his son "Tiger."
Woods retired from the military in 1974. His son Tiger was born on December 30, 1975, and became a child prodigy playing golf by the time he was three years old. Earl Woods has shared many of the techniques he used in rearing Tiger in two books: Training a Tiger and Playing Through: Straight Talk on Hard Work, Big Dreams and Adventures with Tiger. He had been criticized by some for putting too much pressure on Tiger at an early age.
The Earl Woods National Youth Golf Academy at Colbert Hills Golf Course in Manhattan, Kansas is named in his honor. It was host to the first First Tee National Academy in 2000.