In 1997, 21-year-old Tiger Woods tore up the competition at Augusta National and won his first major by 12 strokes.
He inspired countless young golfers — and one specific golfer — in the process.
Cheyenne Woods, Tiger’s niece, started playing junior golf that year. She was introduced to the game by Tiger’s father, Earl — her grandfather — and swung a club for the first time in his now-famous garage. Neither of her parents, Earl Jr. and Susan, played golf. Earl Sr. and Tiger were her links.
“Growing up I loved it. I thought it was the coolest thing ever watching Tiger on TV every weekend,” Cheyenne Woods said. “I started playing golf around 1997, when Tiger really took off. I was along with all the other junior golfers wearing red shirts on Sundays. We were all out there as the biggest Tiger Woods fans.”
Fast-forward more than two decades, and Cheyenne Woods is charting her own path. At age 27, she’s 15 years younger than her uncle and still has plenty of room to grow her game. This is her fourth year on the LPGA Tour, where she’s had two top-10 finishes but no titles yet.
On Monday, she was making the media rounds in the Twin Cities in advance of next year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine National in Chaska. Tickets for that event, to be held June 18-23, went on sale Monday (www.kpmgwomenspga.com/tickets), with tickets for practice rounds starting at $20 and championship round tickets starting at $30.
Of note were two of Woods’ traveling companions: Her dog, Reece, an almost 2-year-old Maltese Yorkie, and the trophy awarded to the winner of the Women’s PGA Championship, a hefty piece of hardware weighing in at around 30 pounds.
Reece sat calmly under a table as we chatted. The trophy sat on the table, an enticement that could be considered inspiration.
“My goal is to win an LPGA tournament, and that’s what I’m working toward — playing the best golf I can. Every day I’m out, figuring out how to improve and where I can make up shots,” Woods said.
The Women’s PGA Championship will be part of a big summer of golf in the Twin Cities, with the area getting the 3M Open as a new PGA Tour event starting next year.
“We don’t see it as a challenge, really. I think there are enough golf fans in the region for both events,” said Renee DeLosh, director of next year’s Women’s PGA Championship. “And the golf fan is really going to have a wonderful summer in 2019.”
DeLosh added that Minnesotans have historically supported major golf tournaments.
Having followed Tiger Woods from hole to hole at the 2002 and 2009 PGA Championships — as well as walked among the crowds at the Ryder Cup — I can attest that DeLosh is correct. More specifically, a return to Hazeltine for another big event should be a good match.
Cheyenne Woods hasn’t yet been to Hazeltine — this trip, in fact, was the first time she’s ever been in Minnesota — but she took note of the fact that her uncle finished second in both of those PGA Championships.
“To be able to play and win would be a huge accomplishment,” she said.