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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China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.

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Putting prepared Park's path back to No. 1

By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 12:13 am

Inbee Park brings more than her unshakably tranquil demeanor back to the top of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week.

She brings more than her Olympic gold medal and seven major championships to the Mediheal Championship on the outskirts of San Francisco.

She brings a jarring combination of gentleness and ruthlessness back to the top of the rankings.

Park may look as if she could play the role of Mother Teresa on some goodwill tour, but that isn’t what her opponents see when she’s wielding her Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet.

She’s like Mother Teresa with Lizzy Borden’s axe.

When Park gets on one of her rolls with the putter, she scares the hell out of the rest of the tour.

At her best, Park is the most intimidating player in women’s golf today.

“Inbee makes more 20- and 30-footers on a regular basis than anyone I know,” seven-time major championship winner Karrie Webb said.

All those long putts Park can hole give her an aura more formidable than any power player in the women’s game.

“A good putter is more intimidating than someone who knocks it out there 280 yards,” Webb said “Even if Inbee misses a green, you know she can hole a putt from anywhere. It puts more pressure on your putter knowing you’re playing with someone who is probably going to make them all.”

Park, by the way, said Webb and Ai Miyazato were huge influences on her putting. She studied them when she was coming up on tour.

Webb, though, believes there’s something internal separating Park. It isn’t just Park’s ability to hole putts that makes her so intimidating. It’s the way she carries herself on the greens.

“She never gets ruffled,” Webb said. “She says she gets nervous, but you never see a change in her. If you’re going toe to toe with her, that’s what is intimidating. Even if you’re rolling in putts on top of her, it doesn’t seem to bother her. She’s definitely a player you have to try not to pay attention to when you’re paired with her, because you can get caught up in that.”

Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

Park has led the LPGA in putts per greens in regulation five of the last 10 years.

Brad Beecher has been on Park’s bag for more than a decade, back before she won her first major, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. He has witnessed the effect Park can have on players when she starts rolling in one long putt after another.

“You have those times when she’ll hole a couple long putts early, and you just know, it’s going to be one of those days,” Beecher said. “Players look at me like, `Does she ever miss?’ or `How am I going to beat this?’ You see players in awe of it sometimes.”

Park, 29, won in her second start of 2018, after taking seven months off with a back injury. In six starts this year, she has a victory, two ties for second-place and a tie for third. She ended Shanshan Feng’s 23-week run at No. 1 with a tie for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open last weekend.

What ought to disturb fellow tour pros is that Park believes her ball striking has been carrying her this year. She’s still waiting for her putter to heat up. She is frustrated with her flat stick, even though she ranks second in putts per greens in regulation this season.

“Inbee Park is one of the best putters ever,” said LPGA Hall of Famer Sandra Haynie, a 42-time LPGA winner. “She’s dangerous on the greens.”

Haynie said she would rank Park with Kathy Whitworth, Mickey Wright and Nancy Lopez as the best putters she ever saw.

Hall of Famer Joanne Carner says Park is the best putter she has seen since Lopez.

“I thought Nancy was a great putter,” Carner said. “Inbee is even better.”

Park uses a left-hand low grip, with a mostly shoulder move and quiet hands.

Lopez used a conventional grip, interlocking, with her right index finger down the shaft. She had a more handsy stroke than Park.

Like Lopez, Park prefers a mallet-style putter, and she doesn’t switch putters much. She is currently playing with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putter. She won the gold medal with it two years ago. She used an Oddysey White Ice Sabertooth winged mallet when she won three majors in a row in 2013.

Lopez hit the LPGA as a rookie in 1978 with a Ray Cook M1 mallet putter and used it for 20 years. It’s in the World Golf Hall of Fame today.

“I watch Inbee, and I think, `Wow, that’s how I used to putt,’” Lopez said. “You can see she’s not mechanical at all. So many players today are mechanical. They forget if you just look at the hole and stroke it, you’re going to make more putts.”

Notably, Park has never had a putting coach, not really. Her husband and swing coach, Gi Hyeob Nam, will look at her stroke when she asks for help.

“When I’m putting, I’m concentrating on the read and mostly my speed,” Park said. “I don’t think mechanically about my stroke at all, unless I think there’s something wrong with it, and then I’ll have my husband take a look. But, really, I rely on my feel. I don’t think about my stroke when I’m out there playing.”

Hall of Famer Judy Rankin says Park’s remarkably consistent speed is a key to her putting.

“Inbee is definitely a feel putter, and her speed is so consistent, all the time,” Rankin said. “You have to assume she’s a great green reader.”

Beecher says Park’s ability to read greens is a gift. She doesn’t rely on him for that. She reads greens herself.

“I think what impresses me most is Inbee has a natural stroke,” Beecher said. “There’s nothing too technical. It’s more straight through and straight back, but I think the key element of the stroke is that she keeps the putter so close to the ground, all the time, on the takeaway and the follow-through. It helps with the roll and with consistency.”

Park said that’s one of her fundamentals.

“I keep it low, almost like I’m hitting the ground,” Park said. “When I don’t do that, I miss more putts.”

Beecher believes the real reason Park putts so well is that the putter brought her into the game. It’s how she got started, with her father, Gun Gyu Park, putting the club in her hands as a child. She loved putting on her own.

“That’s how she fell in love with the game,” Beecher said. “Getting started that way, it’s played a huge role in her career.”

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Teams announced for NCAA DI women's regionals

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2018, 10:50 pm

Seventy-two teams and an additional 24 individuals were announced Wednesday as being selected to compete in the NCAA Division I women's regionals, May 7-9.

Each of the four regional sites will consist of 18 teams and an extra six individual players, whose teams were not selected. The low six teams and low three individuals will advance to the NCAA Championship, May 18-23, hosted by Oklahoma State at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

The four regional sites include Don Veller Seminole Golf Course & Club in Tallahassee, Fla., hosted by Florida State; UT Golf Club in Austin, Texas, hosted by the University of Texas; University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wis., hosted by the University of Wisconsin; TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif., hosted by Stanford University.

Arkansas, Duke, UCLA and Alabama are the top seeds in their respective regionals. Arizona State, the third seed in the Madison regional, is the women's defending champion. Here's a look at the regional breakdown, along with teams and players:

Austin Regional Madison Regional San Francisco Regional Tallahassee Regional
Arkansas Duke UCLA Alabama
Texas USC Stanford Furman
Michigan State Arizona State South Carolina Arizona
Florida Northwestern Kent State Washington
Auburn Illinois Oklahoma State Wake Forest
Oklahoma Purdue North Carolina Vanderbilt
Houston Iowa State Colorado Florida State
Miami (Fla.) Virginia Louisville Clemson
Baylor Wisconsin N.C. State Georgia
Texas A&M Campbell Mississippi Tennessee
BYU Ohio State Cal UNLV
East Carolina Notre Dame San Diego State Kennesaw State
Texas Tech Old Dominion Pepperdine Denver
Virginia Tech Oregon State Oregon Coastal Carolina
UTSA Idaho Long Beach State Missouri
Georgetown Murray State Grand Canyon Charleston
Houston Baptist North Dakota State Princeton Richmond
Missouri State IUPUI Farleigh Dickinson Albany
Brigitte Dunne (SMU) Connie Jaffrey (Kansas State) Alivia Brown (Washington State) Hee Ying Loy (E. Tennessee State)
Xiaolin Tian (Maryland) Pinyada Kuvanun (Toledo) Samantha Hutchinson (Cal-Davis) Claudia De Antonio (LSU)
Greta Bruner (TCU) Pun Chanachai (New Mexico State) Ingrid Gutierrez (New Mexico) Fernanda Lira (Central Arkansas)
Katrina Prendergast (Colorado State) Elsa Moberly (Eastern Kentucky) Abegail Arevalo (San Jose State) Emma Svensson (Central Arkansas)
Ellen Secor (Colorado State) Erin Harper (Indiana) Darian Zachek (New Mexico) Valentina Giraldo (Jacksonville State)
Faith Summers (SMU) Cara Basso (Penn State) Christine Danielsson (Cal-Davis) Kaeli Jones (UCF)
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Leach on grizzlies, walk-up music and hating golf

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2018, 10:47 pm

He's one of college football's deepest thinkers, and he has no time to waste on a golf course.

Washington State head football coach Mike Leach created headlines last week when he shared his view that golf is "boring" and should be reserved for those who, unlike him, need practice swearing. The author and coach joined host Will Gray on the latest episode of the Golf Channel podcast to expand on those views - and veer into some unexpected territory.

Leach shared how his father and brother both got bitten by the golf bug as he grew up, but he steered clear in part because the sport boasts an overly thick rule book:

"First of all, the other thing I don't like is it's pretentious. There's a lot of rules. Don't do it this way, don't do it that way. You walked between my ball and the hole. This guy has to go first, then you go after he does. I mean, all these rules, I just don't understand."

Leach also shared his perspective about what fuels the vibrant fashion choices seen on many courses:

"You can tell there's a subtle, internal rebellion going on with golf, and where that subtle, internal rebellion manifests itself is they really liven up the clothes. I mean, they're beaten down by all the little subtle rules, so they really liven up the clothes. Maybe have knickers, maybe they'll have a floppy hat or something like that."

Leach on the advice he would sometimes offer when friends explained their rationale for hitting the links: 

"They say, 'Well I don't go there to golf or go to take it seriously. When I go golf, I just like to have some beers.' And I'm thinking, 'You know there's bars for that? There's bars for that, and at those bars they have, often times, attractive women and music going on?'"

Leach is heading into his seventh season at Washington State, and he also described a unique hazard that can sometimes pop up at the on-campus course in Pullman, Wash.:

"In the spring the grizzlies come out, and the grizzly preserve is right across the street from the golf course. So they’ll be out, you’ll see them running around on the hills inside the preserve there. But there is this visual where, all of a sudden you drive up this hill on your golf cart, and you’re at the tee box and you’re getting ready to hit, and on the hill just opposite of you it’s covered with grizzly bears. And as you’re getting ready to hit your ball, it occurs to you that the grizzly bears are going to beat you to your ball."

Other topics in the wide-ranging discussion included Leach's proposal for a 64-team playoff in NCAA Division I football, his chance encounter with Tiger Woods before a game between the Cougars and Woods' Stanford Cardinal, his preferred walk-up music and plans for "full contact golf."

Listen to the entire podcast below: