Tiger Woods Learning Center continues to help kids with education

By Jason SobelJune 26, 2013, 10:43 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – Yes, this is another story about Tiger Woods, but this isn’t another story about Tiger Woods. There will be no debate here over the quest toward a major championship record, no breakdown of distance control with his wedges and no conjecture about an impending return from elbow injury.

That’s because this isn’t about Tiger Woods the golfer. Or Tiger Woods the pitchman. Or even Tiger Woods the celebrity.

This is a story about Tiger Woods the educator – or perhaps more to the point, Tiger Woods the facilitator of education.

You’ve undoubtedly heard of his eponymous Tiger Woods Learning Center, which now consists of five facilities around the country with one more opening in the next few months. But maybe you don’t quite realize how each of these provide invaluable educational resources for underprivileged children. Perhaps you’re pessimistic about Woods’ personal commitment, believing they serve more as tax shelters and public image boosters.

Even for those less skeptical, there’s an excellent chance you still don’t understand just how much Woods is involved – if not on a daily basis, at least as part of the overall mission. Well, start taking notes. The man is far from a philanthropic figurehead.

“People don’t really see what we’re doing here,” he says from the AT&T National, which will once again benefit TWLC. “Whether I’m recognized for that or not, who knows? Right now I’m a player and that’s what they see a lot of times. Most people don’t really understand what we’re doing for kids and how many kids we’ve helped so far.”

The numbers are staggering. Since the implementation of the first TWLC in Anaheim, Calif., seven years ago, more than 100,000 students have been served by the programs. Almost every one of them has come from less than modest means. Many were on the road to becoming high school dropouts. Now they’re either in college or on their way there.

One by one, the stories are uplifting and inspirational. Even the most jaded souls among us will recognize how a little help can make a big impact.

“It’s helped me learn how to lead better, especially during my video production classes. You have to be able to communicate with everybody and make sure you, the director, the cameramen and the actors all know what they’re doing. You’re putting together a piece that not only takes one vision, but all united to make it come through. It’s helped me build structure and incorporate that.” – Elmu Sadalah, TWLC student, 2010-present.

The staggering numbers don’t just come in volume.

There is the breakdown, with minorities serving as a majority in these programs. According to the TWLC’s own demographic research: Hispanic/Latino make up 75.2 percent; Asian 11.6 percent; White 8.32 percent; Black 3.9 percent; American Indian/Alaska native 0.5 percent.

An average of 15 students each year are named Earl Woods Scholars. Of these, 87 percent are first generation college students. They come from an average family income of $36,000. Their top areas of study are biomedical sciences and engineering; psychology; computer science; and political science.

Their college retention from first year to second year is 100 percent. They’ve traveled to more than 15 countries to study abroad. They’ve interned and worked for places such as NASA, Pixar and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

And every single one has obtained a bachelor’s degree.

“The first class I took five years ago was an engineering class. Right away, I thought it was the best thing ever. The teachers are really what make the experience great – they make you enjoy what you’re learning about and they engage with the students.” – Edgar Perez, TWLC student, 2008-13.

Kathy Bihr has served as the vice president of education and programs since before the first TWLC facility was ever established. Even she remains surprised at the program’s outreach during such a limited time frame.

“We all thought it would be a very slow growth model,” she explains. “It took off almost immediately. Initially we would have just been happy slow-growing it over time, but it’s resonated with kids; it’s put college on the radar for kids who wouldn’t have considered it. There are more young people now who are more confident with what they want to choose as a career path.”

For his part, Woods credits those chosen career paths with a conscious decision to teach students about various occupations within a chosen field.

“Our centers have created this great environment for the kids to learn,” he explained. “We ask them what they would like to learn. One kid might say, ‘I want to be a rapper.’ Well, you may not become a rapper, but what about the recording industry? We explain to them all of the different types of things that go into being an artist. You don’t have to be the singer. There are so many different jobs and opportunities. Don’t be so pigeonholed in your views.”

“I’m the oldest of seven children. I have three brothers and three sisters. I’m going to be the first one going to college and I get to be a role model to my brothers. It’s exciting.” -- Marcus Edwards, TWLC student, 2010-13.

“How vital is Tiger?”

Bihr repeats the question to herself, a question that nearly everyone who knows the name attached to TWLC asks sooner rather than later.

“He’s critical,” she claims. “He really had a vision for what he wanted to see accomplished for kids. In that regard, I think he’s really critical. He’s interested in what we have going on, he makes suggestions on different things. He’s our biggest cheerleader and supporter. Forget about the money for a minute, which is substantial. He’s our biggest cheerleader because he’s seen a change in these kids.”

Don’t take her word for it, though. Ask the students.

“He’s a leader,” Sadalah says. “He’s always taken the lead to do something no one else has done. Creating the Tiger Woods Foundation is something you don’t see many people doing. And he goes above and beyond the call of duty. To come see our students like he did a few weeks ago. He talked with us, he interacted with us. He’s a pretty cool dude.”

Sadalah, a native of Sierra Leone who moved to the Washington D.C. area at age 7, will return for his senior year in the fall. He plans to mentor younger students and hopes to become a lawyer someday.

“Everything he’s done for us, he made all of this possible,” Perez says. “Whenever someone asks, ‘Who’s your hero?’ Tiger is the person who comes to mind because he led to all of the possibilities that will help me become successful in the future. He doesn’t know what a difference he’s making in some of our lives.”

Perez has enrolled at Reed College, where he will dual major in electrical engineering and physics.

“I feel like he’s a role model for me,” Edwards says. “I can reminisce back to when I was in first grade, my art teacher had a picture of Tiger Woods hanging up. He was always an inspiration to me. I was like, I want to be like Tiger when I grow up. Thanks to him establishing the Tiger Woods Learning Center, it’s given me the opportunity to better my education.”

Edwards will go to Kentucky State University this fall, the first person in his family to attend college. He plans to become either a police officer or a federal agent.

As for Woods, he’s proud of the students and proud of the teachers that have worked with them to achieve goals they previously didn’t even know they had.

Asked whether people would be surprised if they knew Tiger Woods – the golfer, the pitchman, the celebrity – was so heavily involved in the learning centers with his name on them, he doesn’t hesitate.

“Probably,” he says with a shrug. “Probably.”

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.