Tiger Woods, host of last week’s Genesis Invitational, will go down as one of the greatest golfers in history. Even though a tournament win at the Riviera still eludes him, the inspiration he provides to a new generation will far outlive his record.
His prowess on the course is legendary, but the legacy he is establishing for the next generation is understated. He believes in kids and their potential, and this led him to start the TGR Foundation in 1996, when he was only 20. He and father established a junior golf program and began giving scholarships and grants. Then came the 9/11 tragedy.
In a 2018 story in USA Today (“Tiger Woods Wants to Level the Playing Field in Education One Child at a Time”), Woods said, “I thought to myself that if I was in one of the Towers, the way the foundation was set up, the foundation would cease and desist.”
“Education came first when I was a kid,” he said. “I couldn’t play golf or play with my friends until I did my homework. And I had to do it correctly and get good grades.”
Woods noted, “There are so many kids who have talent, but they don’t have the opportunity. We’re giving them the opportunity.”
His focus shifted from running golf clinics to emphasizing education, more specifically STEM education for kids from underprivileged communities.
The Learning Lab in Anaheim was created, and the Earl Woods Scholar Program established.
“We worked in STEM before it was a common acronym,” TGR Foundation CEO Ring Singer told Circling the News in an earlier story. At the 35,000-sq.-ft. TGR facility in Anaheim, doors are open daily for students and classroom teachers. “Our classes are about rocketry, forensics, topics that appeal to kids. This is about project-based learning. We teach the kids how to think,” Singer said.
At the 2020 Genesis, Woods continued to take innovative steps to encourage all children to become more interested in golf, with the introduction of the Kids Club. Anyone under the age of 15 was invited to join. The club included access to the tournament, a welcome email from Tiger Woods, a personalized membership card, monthly newsletters featuring tips from golf pros, year-round giveaways and front-row viewing zones. (To register your child or grandchild, visit: genesisinvitational.com/youth.)
The tournament featured a special STEM area near the 14th and 17th holes, and a putting green for kids.
On Saturday during the tournament, more than 650 youth were invited to a special event on the driving range that included 14 Los Angeles-area youth groups plus residents and Kids Club members.
Everyone received t-shirts and hats, and members of the Kids Club also received sunglasses.
Trick shot artist Josh Kelly grabbed the kids’ attention immediately by juggling a ball on a club. “I started golf when I was 11, after I saw a video of Tiger doing this. It’s harder than it looks.”
He then proceeded to amaze the kids (and adults) as he juggled balls, clubs, balls and clubs. He hit backwards, dropped a ball between his legs, twirled and hit it, and sent it soaring.
As he swung, he broke balloons that had a golf ball inside, and then hit the balls far into the distance.
After his demonstration, he told the kids, “Go home and work on actual shots.”
For those who missed his performance, many of his amazing tricks can be seen on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQkHIOPpbfw.
Next, the kids were introduced to professional golfer Erik van Rooyen, 29, who had missed the cut the day before. Born in South Africa, van Rooyen attended the University of Minnesota and turned pro in 2013.
He urged kids to have fun playing sports. “I played all the sports growing up,” he said, and that included soccer, cricket, rugby, tennis and golf. “You learn cross patterns and develop ball skills. Play every kind of sport you can and have fun with it.”
CTN asked van Rooyen afterwards about playing numerous sports. “Kids who specialize too young, often burn out,” he said, noting that Tiger was an exception, but generally, “looking back, the kids who were best at 13, 14 in their age groups, often burned out by 18.”
He explained that by participating in different sports, “You learn teamwork and leadership and that later comes out on the course.”
TRG Marketing Director Daniel Scali noted that the kids program had expanded since 2019. “It’s bigger and better,” he said. “We want kids to come out and have fun. This is open to all youth and everyone had access to it. For us, we want as many kids as possible to experience the tournament.”
Then, two lucky kids had a pink paper in their “goodie bag” that had been randomly given out that day. They were asked to come forward and found out they had won a set of junior golf clubs.