Q-and-A with Tiger Woods
Last week Tiger Woods came to the Congressional Country Club (CCC) to promote the third annual AT&T National, a tournament that he founded to honor his father, Earl Woods, as well as our country’s troops and veterans.
Tiger announced that he will play on the historic blue course on June 30. He told me that our capital city “is a great golfing town. This is a great sport town in general. We want to come back and play here as long as Congressional wants us. I mean, this is such a great golf course and such a special area, that of course you want to come back. It is a very historic golf course and one that players love to play.”
We all know what it’s like to watch Tiger at work. He seems like a robot. If he has a good day, he walks home with a trophy (or, on occasion, a green jacket). If he has a bad day, he finishes somewhere in the top 10.
Last week, though, as I spoke with him about his love of golf and of the CCC, I saw him do something that few people get to see him do — I saw him think. Here are some of the snippets from our conversation:
Coach Kemper (CK): You were at the basketball game last night. You looked pretty casual in you khakis. Are you a Lakers Fan?
Tiger Woods (TW): Yes, I am, no doubt. No doubt.
CK: Now that you’ve got a family, you’re probably starting to think about education, like all parents do, and sort of the buzzword these days is the “global schoolhouse”; educating kids to be responsible citizens in the global schoolhouse. You and your family have such rich cultural backgrounds — have you started to think about what you might do to encourage your kids to be global citizens?
[At this moment during my question, Tiger leans forward, eyes very focused, and says, “What, can you repeat that? What do you mean?”
I elaborate on the global schoolhouse and 21st-century learning competencies. He is now totally engaged. Not the robot, icon and golf star, but a thinking, curious and interested man. He seems excited to talk about something other than golf.]
TW: I think just the nature of what I do, it is global. Traveling — actually one of the things Mark O’Meara [a fellow pro golfer] and I talked about a few weeks ago — I was at home just rehabbing — [and] he came down and we had a long talk. And one of the points we talked about is that his kids got an education that very few kids do, which is traveling around the world. And obviously with Elin [Tiger’s wife] being Swedish and my mom being Thai, my kids will be traveling quite a bit to those two countries, and I’m sure with me all over the world.
The world certainly has opened up. It has gotten closer. I think my kids will certainly experience something that I didn’t experience, even in my generation, with accessibility to these different places, and I think it’s going to be fun and educational for both of them.
CK: Do you speak any Swedish? How do you feel about language acquisition for your children?
TW: I speak a little. It’s not very good. I’m better at reading Swedish, but I can say simple things like “Take out the trash” or “clean up the house” or “wash the dishes.” I understand those. Actually I understand those in Thai, too.
[Tiger laughs and then asks what I mean by language acquisition. He is now so relaxed, has a huge smile on his face, and is chuckling. I feel as if we are having a chat, not a Q-and-A session].
CK: What’s your favorite memory about coming to town and participating in the inaugural celebration, and have you had the chance to talk to the president either then or since then?
TW: I remember talking with President Bush. He came in and hit the inaugural tee shot. I remember him complaining at the 17th tee, “Oh, I can’t hit a shot, I just had surgery,” blah, blah, blah, and he knocked it right down the middle of the fairway. He probably wouldn’t be very good at poker or something like that. [Laughs.]
But it’s one of those things where it was just a great way to start off this event. It made it so special. And to have the military there and have everyone support the event like they did the first year, and especially us putting the event together in just over a hundred days, putting it together and having the players just rave about it, having all of the fans rave about it, it was just such a huge success.
We are trying to build on that momentum that we created the first year.
CK: You’re part of a group of international golfers trying to get golf accepted into the 2016 Olympics. How important is that to you, and why?
TW: Well, I think that golf has become more global and has expanded. I think that golf, with its rich history, would be a wonderful fit for the Olympics.
In Tiger Woods, we have much more than a supremely gifted athlete; we have a powerful advocate for global education, an intellectually curious man and a serious thinker.
Kathy Kemper is founder and CEO of the Institute for Education, a nonprofit foundation that recognizes and promotes leadership and civility locally, nationally and in the world community.