It’s impossible for most of us to comprehend the complications that the life of a celebrity child poses: invasion of privacy is a big one, but the pressure of being compared, often unfavourably, and entirely unjustly, to a successful parent, is often too much for most children.
Time appears to have nothing better to do than elapse. And it goes by much quicker when you’re having fun, or so they say. It’s certainly been a whole lot of fun to witness Tiger Woods’ career—from his famous, ‘Hello World,” press conference in 1996, to his miraculous comeback win at Augusta in 2019—over the last 25 years. Woods’ unprecedented global stardom has meant a life lived under an unrelenting spotlight; whether it’s his golf-swing-changes, the back and knee operations, the much sensationalised personal indiscretions, the breakdown of his marriage, the list goes on. Everything and anything the man does is fodder for opinions and analysis. This harsh gaze has not spared his family either.
In 2013, when Tiger started dating Lindsey Vonn, he released a series of photos to the press, pre-empting the paparazzi: the idea was to disincentivize a violation of privacy. “It’s very simple. We’re very happy where we’re at, but also we wanted to limit the stalkarazzi and all those sleazy websites that are out there following us,” he said. “I’ve had situations where it’s been very dangerous for my kids and the extent they’ll go to. We basically devalued the first photos.” Woods’ kids—Sam and Charlie—had been introduced to the media in much the same way back in 2009: via a series of professionally shot photos showcasing the family, and more importantly, controlling how they were presented to the world.
It’s impossible for most of us to comprehend the complications that the life of a celebrity child poses: invasion of privacy is a big one, but the pressure of being compared, often unfavourably, and entirely unjustly, to a successful parent, is often too much for most children. Even in golf, there are hardly any players who’ve emulated their parent’s success. Given Woods’ stature, the only person who probably comes close to understanding the pressure of expectations that Charlie faces would be Jack Nicklaus’s son, Gary Nicklaus. Gary plied his trade on tour for three hard years, and the highlight of his career was a playoff loss to Phil Mickelson regular PGA Tour event. During that period Gary switched from America to Europe to qualify for his card because every mistake he made in the States was highlighted and analysed. ”Throughout my career in America I’ve had to live with being the son of Jack. “It hasn’t been easy,” he told the press in 1998. Eventually Gary lost his card and drifted away from the game.
It has been done though. Al and Brent Geiberger were the first father and son combination to compete in the PGA Championship in 1988. Al won 11 times on tour, including the 1966 PGA Championship, but he’s mostly known as the first player on the PGA Tour to shoot 59. His son, Brent, won twice at the top level, with victories at the 1999 Greater Hartford Open and the 2004 Greensboro Classic. Craig Stadler won 13 times on tour, including the 1982 Masters, and has nine Champions Tour victories to his credit. His son Kevin won the 2014 Waste Management Open. Perhaps the most successful father-son duo has been Bill and Jay Haas. Bill won the 2010 Bob Hope Classic, which Jay won in 1988. Jay won nine times on tour, but has found more success on the Champions Tour, with 17 wins on the senior circuit. Bill has six PGA Tour wins, including the FedEx Cup on his trophy mantle. Jay and Bill were together at the 2015 Presidents Cup, where Jay was the captain and Bill was a clutch-performing captain’s pick.
For Charlie Woods, the high watermark of his dad’s achievements are what the youngster will, sadly, be measured against. No surprise then that when the father-son duo played the PNC Championship—a limited field event with a scramble format for family two-ball-teams—it created the kind of interest no 11-year-old has ever generated in golf before. “I’m trying to make sure he has the right environment, that he’s sheltered and away from this,” said Woods. The PNC was definitely the right kind of event for a controlled introduction to the world for Charlie. The pandemic meant that there were no galleries while the team scramble format meant Tiger was always at hand to help out Charlie who played off custom tee boxes. The event had a fun quotient and there was a general lack of game pressure. Tiger handled the media interviews and while there were plenty of cameras, no intrusive spectators meant that Charlie could play his game.
And did he play! The Woods team shot a pair of 62s, 20-under par, in a scramble format over two days to finish seventh among the 20 teams. The highlight was an eagle Charlie made on Saturday, after knocking a 5-wood, 175 yards to within three feet of the pin on his own ball. Not lost on viewers were his mannerisms: the same club twirl, the one-handed follow-through shot, and the classic fist pumps. He’s not shy of gamesmanship, and if reports are to be believed, likes nothing more than the rush of competition. If some of the putts and short game touches he showed are any indications, he’s also got his dad’s work ethic; what Charlie Woods does in the future is his business. The least the world can do is not insult him with the preconception that his success is pre-ordained.