I’m baffled and dejected.
My club twirl, my pre-shot routine, and my favorite red golf shirt that I only wear on the most special of occasions has been directly related to your domination in golf. I watched your brilliant chip on the 17th at the Masters and your magical putt on the island green at TPC Sawgrass. I’d envision your swing as I worked tirelessly at the range, just as I would analyze a putt from every angle that you would.
Call me self-centered, but this is how you repay me? I have had a poster of you attached to the door in my room since I was ten-years old: You are holding your finish with the word “Driven” emblazoned across the bottom. My friends would come over and laugh at the poster. “Come on, Will, golf is not a real sport, any old man can play.” They laughed and ridiculed me, but I chose to be driven because I wanted to emulate the drive I saw in you over every swing. Since the day I became mesmerized by the unsuspecting allure of golf, you—and only you—have been my hero.
Rick Rielly, another of my icons, explained that no one chooses to be a role model, they just are. Consequently, that man or woman must assume the responsibilities of such a prestigious position. Have you? I know I am not perfect; I triple-bogied the first hole of the Los Angeles City Finals as a sophomore, junior, and senior in high school. And I’m not that naïve because I never assumed that you were perfect.
But this is, most simply put, brutal.
It is impossible for me, or any other reader, fan, or critic to imagine the inner turmoil you are enduring, as well as your family and friends. But truthfully, I can’t decide how I can continue admiring you, rooting for you, and imitating your faultless golf swing.
It seems rather easy, almost too easy, to blame "the digital age" we are in for revealing the sources and facts deemed "personal" that blew open this scandal. Or once more, one could declare that "no one is perfect" and that you are being judged in a harsher manner because of your worldwide fame.
But then again, I can’t help but feel this palpable, mind-and-body-consuming feeling that you aren’t worthy of being supported anymore. Golf is about integrity, honor, and respect, and you just proved to me, a loyal fan since I could grip a club, that those values pertain primarily to the golf course and are not reflected in your personal life.
As the high-school team captain of my golf team, I used to give speeches before every single match, and I always made a conscious effort to reference you in some way. Looking back, I know exactly why I did that—you are f****n Tiger Woods.
You have redefined what it means to be a golfer in the 21st century. You are built as well as any running back or point guard. You hit the ball a mile and still retain the silkiest, smooth swing. Your touch around the greens is unmatched. And your confidence, well, your peers view your name on the leader-board and crumble, as if assuming defeat. The legends like Palmer, Nicklaus, and even Jones have become almost dwarfed by your feats.
More than anything though, as a kid and teenager watching you play golf, you evoked this impenetrable desire to reach your goal. Whether that was winning a tournament, recovering from surgery, designing golf courses, or creating a youth-based community organization, you have been a symbol of everything that makes golf magnificent.
Thanks for the ride, it was great while it lasted.
- Will Leivenberg