Woods' organization helps educate students at Cesar Chavez Public Charter School
Everyone remembers where they were on Sept. 11. For Tiger Woods, it was St. Louis. He was preparing for a World Golf Championship tournament at Bellerive Country Club. But the day of the attacks, the tournament was canceled, as well as flights nationwide.
Making the long drive home to Orlando, Fla., Woods had an epiphany. If he had perished in the attacks, what would he have left behind?
"Basically it would be nothing," Woods recalled two years ago.
|When » Thursday-June 30|
|Where » Congressional CC|
|TV » Golf Channel, CBS|
With that, he began shifting the focus of the Tiger Woods Foundation from educating youngsters on how to play golf to how to get along in life. In 2010, Woods established learning centers at both campuses of Cesar Chavez Public Charter School in the District similar to ones he had opened in his hometown of Los Angeles. Two years later, 25 needy children in the District are benefitting from Earl Woods Scholarships.
One of them is Darryl Robinson, who recently completed his freshman year at Georgetown. Robinson was struggling with an introductory chemistry class but got through with help from his Tiger Woods Foundation mentor, Jake Styacich, who had been through the program.
"I felt unprepared for the Georgetown lifestyle," Robinson said. "[In high school] I wasn't pushed hard enough to the point where I couldn't understand the basic level of chemistry that was expected of every student in my course."
At Chavez's Parkside campus, which Robinson attended, the learning center focuses on science and engineering. At the Capitol Hill campus, students learn communications and video production. The foundation provides afterschool and summer programs to supplement what is taught during regular school hours.
This week, when the AT&T National golf tournament returns to Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, fans who attend will be helping their community as proceeds go to the Tiger Woods Foundation. Since it was established in 2007, the AT&T National has raised $14 million, tournament director Greg McLaughlin said.
Make no mistake, the squeaky-clean image of the superstar who returned tournament golf to the D.C. area in 2007 has been severely damaged by a sex scandal, divorce and bad behavior on and off the course. But he still is his sport's top drawing card. He has enormous power to do positive work, regardless of his performance on the course. Earlier this year, the foundation raised $100,000 via a simple Facebook appeal.
"They really don't need me winning golf tournaments. They don't need me participating on the golf course, period," Woods said a month ago. "This is about education. This is about kids making something of themselves and then obviously giving back and becoming mentors themselves."
The tournament starts its second run in the D.C. area this week, but there is uncertainty about its long-term future. Congressional is committed to host through 2017, but the club and/or Woods can opt out after 2014.
Considering that only 51 percent of members approved of hosting the tournament when the vote was last taken in 2008 -- which was before Woods became embroiled in scandal -- it is likely the marriage between Woods and Congressional will end soon.
Among the options are to move the tournament to another course in the area or to return to Philadelphia, where the event was well-received in 2010-11 when Congressional was undergoing renovation and hosting the U.S. Open. Last year, Woods opened a learning center in Philadelphia.
Wherever the tournament ends up, what Woods has established at Cesar Chavez likely will benefit the community for generations.
"Of the kids in our program, 92 percent are first-generation college students," said McLaughlin, who also is CEO of the foundation. "We have kids going to Georgetown, Harvard, UCLA, [Cal] Berkeley. Two of our graduates this past May are going to medical school. It's been quite rewarding for us."