PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA (AP) — The induction ceremony for the World Golf Hall of Fame is broadcast on television. A dedicated stage is there, with personnel zipping around the off-screen boundaries to maintain order. There are commercial breaks, mild music, and video montages to fill the silence. There’s also a color-coded schedule of events for the evening, including start times for the introductions, highlight videos, and Class of 2022 induction speeches.
Tiger Woods, the evening’s main attraction, was scheduled to enter the stage at 8:34 p.m.
However, at 8:52, he continued.
He was supposed to give a seven-minute speech.
He did, however, speak for about 17 minutes without using notes or a teleprompter.
He was one of history’s most reserved athletes, but now he was speaking from the heart.
Woods, of course, is no stranger to speaking in front of an audience. Throughout his career, he has conducted thousands of interviews. He’s had to deliver a slew of acceptance speeches, both big and minor. He’s been chastised for speaking a lot without saying anything at all at times.
This isn’t it. This was honest, real, and heartfelt. On Wednesday night, his address was 2,235 words long, and what stuck out as he spoke off the cuff – clearly planned but unrehearsed – was that he was most at ease talking about his life on a fundamental level.
He spoke coherently, passionately, and wonderfully about his parents for 17 unscripted minutes.
Concerning his upbringing.
Concerning his children.
He declared at the opening of his speech that he was “going to start kind of retro,” but he never did. His past, his history, and his background were all recurring themes. He spoke not about the famous events we’ve seen on the “Mike Douglas Show,” but rather about the ones we hadn’t heard, at least not publicly, not like this.
He’d hide in “The Ditch” at the Navy Golf Course in Cypress, California, until his father arrived on the third hole in a cart, ready to play with his underage son.
As a junior, he was denied admission to several clubhouses due to his skin color, and he’d just ask two questions: where was the first tee, and what was the course record.
How his family took out a second mortgage when he was 14 to finance his AJGA travel fees – and how the first thing Tiger did when he signed his first agreement with Titleist was pay off that loan.
“So without the sacrifices of Mom, who took me to all those junior golf tournaments, and Dad, who isn’t here but instilled in me this work ethic to fight for what I believe in, to chase after my dreams – that nothing is ever going to be given to you, everything has to be earned,” Woods said, his voice breaking.
“If you don’t put in the effort, if you don’t put in the work, you won’t get the results, and more importantly, you don’t deserve it.” It’s something you’ll have to work for.
“As a result, that summed up my upbringing. That was the turning point in my career.”
And that was the theme of his speech when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Woods made only one brief reference to his life and career this century in 17 unscripted minutes.
There’s no mention of the Tiger Slam. There isn’t a word regarding the majors.
Nothing about the sky-high peaks. The controversies. The traumatic injuries. Comebacks that inspire.
That was certainly an intentional decision to focus on his colossal existence on a fundamental level, and we can speculate as to why. Perhaps it’s because, at 46 years old and recovering from a terrible accident, his focus is nearly totally on his family at this stage in his life. Or maybe it’s because when you win so many times in so many places, all of your successes blend together, and your record speaks for itself. Alternatively, it may simply be hard to summarize a legendary 25-year career in 15 minutes.
“I didn’t get here by myself,” he explained.
Even though the show appeared to be scripted on paper, no one seemed to mind the delay. There was no closing music, no visual cues, and no producer yelling in Woods’ ear that it was time to wrap. He just completed, more than 20 minutes after he was supposed to. He earned the most enthusiastic applause. As is customary.
Woods exited stage right delicately, host David Feherty wrapped up the proceedings quickly, and the performance was over, the soothing music resumed, and the lights flipped back on.
Woods’ mother and children sat in the front row, arms spread, waiting for him. Both then and now, he built a solid basis.
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