2006: Earl Woods was right

Anaheim, Calif.

I don’t believe this is exactly what Rudyard Kipling had in mind. Still, Tiger Woods is master of the common touch.

Kipling, from his poem “If”: If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch, . . . you’ll be a Man, my son!

Woods, walking not with a king but with William Jefferson Clinton, turned to the former president on the first tee at Shady Canyon Golf Club and said, “Come on, Bill, you wuss, let’s play the tips.”

Clinton, when asked if Woods called him a wuss, replied, “Yes, and, in this case, I probably was.”

Woods, with Clinton in tow, indeed played from the tips at Shady Canyon in nearby Irvine. Woods addressed his playing partner as

Bill, which fit the informality of

the occasion. Clinton said he lost

by 25 strokes, although reliable witnesses (Clinton’s Secret Service escorts) said it wasn’t that close.

That was the lighthearted part

of an extraordinary two days in

Orange County. The consequential part would come Feb. 10 at the official opening of the Tiger Woods Learning Center.

The new 35,000-square-foot,

two-story headquarters building – with its pale yellow stucco exterior walls, dramatic slanting panes of glass, and sophisticated array of solar energy panels – sits on the edge of a 14-acre parcel of land just off the heavily traveled 5 and 91 freeways.

This spot was a golf landmark from Tiger’s youth. It was one of the corners of the Dad Miller Golf Course, where Tiger’s Western High School team practiced and played until being lured to a private course after Tiger’s sophomore year.

The course was named after H.G. “Dad” Miller, a legendary local figure who made a hole-in-one at 93 and lived to be 102. The municipal layout has been slightly rearranged to accommodate Tiger’s $25 million creation ($5 million coming from his own pocket). Constructed largely in a floodplain, Dad Miller is a dog-eared golf course. A murder victim once washed up on the back nine during spring flooding.

Regardless, to the regulars who habitually play here and once were proud to count Woods as one of their own, this is home.

With a green fee of $21 and neighbors that include a mobile home park and an electric substation, nobody will confuse this muni with Augusta National. Woods, however, used both courses in the same sentence when, at his first Masters in 1995, he startled reporters by comparing Augusta National’s lack of rough with Dad Miller.

The Tiger Woods Learning Center includes a 10-acre practice range and 3-acre, 18-hole putting course, both designed by Tom Fazio.

Although 13 of 14 acres in the complex are devoted to golf, this grand idea never was driven by golf. The Learning Center is just that – a place to learn. Students in grades 4-12 had to apply to earn the hottest ticket in Southern California academia and be accepted as TWLC students.

This is in addition to their schedules at their regular schools. Everything here is directed by teachers and counselors. The curriculum includes daytime programs (grades 4-6) and after-school programs (grades 7-12). Heavy emphasis is placed on career guidance.

These kids from diverse backgrounds use the facility without charge. It features seven classrooms, a computer lab with 200 wireless computers, multimedia center, student lounge, 200-seat auditorium and cafe.

“It’s not mine. It’s not my family’s. It’s theirs,” Woods said, lifting his eyes to recognize the students who were grouped together among the crowd of 500 at the invitation-only ceremony. “They created the curriculum. They watch ‘CSI’ (on television), hence we have a forensics lab. They want to be involved in music, hence we have a recording studio.”

Earl Woods was right. His son will change the world. He already is doing so.

The elder Woods, still living a few miles from here in the same house in which the baby Tiger learned to growl, raised a lot of eyebrows when he announced his son would significantly reshape the lives of the inhabitants on Earth.

Tiger was a teenager when Earl issued this pearl of a pronouncement. Now Earl, so

ill that he could not attend the ceremony, appears to be a genius. More than that, it is clear that he and his wife, Tida, infused their son with well-defined humanitarian instincts.

Paying tribute to Tida, California first lady Maria Shriver related a discussion with Tiger’s mother.

“My (wavy) hair is almost straight from that conversation,” Shriver said. “She explained to me how she put

the fear of God in him. When he did something wrong and tried to offer an explanation, she would interrupt him and say sternly, ‘I don’t care what it was.’

“Then she told me, ‘That boy shook.’ ”

To which Clinton responded, “I learned another lesson in child rearing today: In the background of every great man was a boy who was terrified of his mother.”

At 30, Tiger already has his name on two

buildings (this one and Nike’s Tiger Woods Center

in Beaverton, Ore.). He also has his name on one street, and that came as a surprise to the Major One.

Curt Pringle, mayor of Anaheim, said, “The city of Anaheim has principles that we follow.

We call it the Anaheim way. And now we have learned the Tiger Woods way. We want to honor you for coming back to your community and putting your own resources into this project.”

With that, Pringle’s aides carried a street sign onto the stage. It said “Tiger Woods Way,” the new name for a section of Gilbert Street that bisects the Dad Miller course.

“I’m impressed that Tiger Woods decided to do this when he was 30 and not 60,” Clinton said. “There has never been a time when private citizens had so much ability to do public good.”

Somehow, the grandiloquent Earl Woods had this vision more than a dozen years ago. He saw the future. He saw the dancing eyes and quick minds of the multicultured school children who would become Tiger’s kids.

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