Tiger Woods Inspires Kids in a Different Way
Elementary students were lined up for a physics lesson—on a Saturday—without any prompting from parents.
According to a 2015 Pew Research Center report, only 29 percent of Americans rated their country’s K-12 education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as above average or the best in the world.
Forty-six percent of U.S. scientists call STEM education below average.
So, what’s wrong with putting 30 kids in a classroom, giving them a science book and then having a teacher, who may not like the subject, lead a lesson? Nothing, if you want to keep kids away from science and technology.
Tiger Woods, the pro golfer, is working to help change that approach and motivate kids to pursue STEM classes.
His TGR Foundation centers on teaching kids STEM and is focused on those students who may not have educational opportunities at their local schools or at home.
“We worked in STEM before it was a common acronym,” TGR Foundation CEO Ring Singer told Circling the News on February 16 at the Riviera golf course. At the 35,000-sq.-ft. TGR facility located 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 kids how to think.”
Kids enrolled in marine science perform squid dissection and analyze sand samples. There are also courses in video game design, coding, urban planning and wearable electronics.
Tiger Woods, one of the greatest golfers in history, started his foundation in 1996, when he was 20. He and his father had already established a junior golf program and were giving grants, but then 9/11 happened.
In a June 2018 story in USA Today (“Tiger Woods Wants to Level the Playing Field in Education One Child at a Time”), Woods explains, “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.
“This is a pop-up of the Anaheim location,” said TGR Communications Director Reshma Melwani about the set-up near hole No. 14 at the Riviera. “There are about 32 groups here today [more than 700 kids]. Most are ‘under-resourced’ kids. We bring them out to see the game of golf, they receive meal vouchers and at 1 p.m. they will get to hear a pro golfer speak.”
She said the children were chosen from after-school groups, YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs and Tee Off Fore Youth.
Kids waited patiently for their turn to design a boat out of aluminum foil (engineering) to see if it would float. Once the boat was buoyant, the kids added a penny at a time, testing how much weight the boat could hold (physics).
Photosensitive beads (that turn colors with light), used in kids’ arts and crafts necklaces, became part of a “Mission to Mars.” Kids were told they were designing a space helmet shield and they had to determine what color plastic sheet (red, blue, clear or white) would best keep out the solar rays.
Four beads were put in individual petri dishes and a sheet of paper covered each one. A child could easily see which shield would provide the greatest protection, when the bead covered with clear plastic turned purple.
Teens, using an iPad, were able to move a “robotic” golf ball on a course, by simply using their finger on the screen.
And—then there were crowds of kids lined up to try their luck at mini-golf.
Dave Klewan, general manager of the Genesis Open, said, “This is the third year that we’ve worked with the TRG Foundation. This is one of the most important events for us. We’re preparing for the next generation of learners and golfers.”
In addition to the experiments and a chance to play mini-golf at the Family Village, children were walked around the course and given an explanation of the game.
“This is important because it allows all kids a chance to come to the Genesis to see a major tournament, regardless of means or access,” Klewan said. “The kids also get to speak to a professional golfer.”
He was asked how the pro was chosen. “There’s a huge number of pros that want to help,” Klewan said. “We never have a problem getting a pro. PGA players are committed to growing the game.”
Hundreds of students gathered on the Riviera chipping green and were introduced to Peter Malnati, a 31-year-old pro who was paired with Tiger Woods during the Genesis Open. (He completed the tournament T44 at one under par).
Malnati patiently answered every question, including one about the Stanley Cup: he admitted he didn’t know much hockey.
“I grew up in Tennessee and neither my mom nor dad played golf,” he told the kids. “I was six years old when I played the first time and my mom sent me out with a neighbor, I think she wanted me out of the house.”
He noted that he played soccer and baseball in high school, but then “Tiger made this sport really cool. I dreamed of getting to play golf. When I was in middle school, he was my idol. He was bigger than life. He’s still bigger than life. He has 80 wins, I only have one.”
Malnati told the kids he wasn’t the best player in high school and wasn’t the best player in college. “I earned my first PGA card in 2013.”
A kid asked him, “What do you like about golf?”
“In golf you can always measure your progress. The game is your journey,” Malnati said. “The best thing about golf is the sport. It is about honesty. The norm in golf is to be respectful.”
Earlier that week the TGR Foundation partnered with Kimmelman Family Foundation to announce the launch of an academic/sports complex in Carson (near where the blimp is anchored).
There will be numerous tennis courts and soccer fields, plus a 25,000-sq.-ft. state-of-the-art academic center equipped with high-tech labs and interactive stations that encourage innovative STEM learning.
TGR’s Singer said that “it’s unusual in the way we raise money: it is through events tied into the golf world.”
Not only is money raised for the foundation through the Genesis Open, but also through the Hero World Challenge, the Tiger Jam (golf-poker-music, held in Vegas) and the Pebble Beach Tiger Woods Invitational in October.
In a 2014 Forbes interview (“Tiger Woods on Philanthropy”), Woods said: “I’m proud that our work is making a real difference for our students. Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, and we see this every day in the work we do. Almost 90 percent of our college scholars are first in their families to graduate, which is a game changer for those families. I’m very proud of that.”
Malnati said, “The game is the journey.”
Tiger has won a near-record number of tournaments. But his journey goes beyond a game and includes giving thousands of kids a chance—700 of them were at the Genesis Open last weekend.