Tiger Woods’ historic win at Augusta National in yesterday’s Masters came 14 years since his last victory in the fabled tournament, a period that saw his personal life unravel and his body endure what he himself thought were career-ending injuries.
Now the 43-year-old Woods is back, his improbable win inspiring sports fans everywhere. In honor of the champ, TSD contributor John Riley – no slouch himself with a golf club (he graduated from UD with the winningest record in golf team history and regularly vied for the state championship) — offers a couple of only-in-Delaware/only-John Riley Tiger Woods stories for your enjoyment, pulled from a collection of life stories he is compiling in a new memoir to be published later this year, “Delaware Eyewitness: Behind the Scenes in the First State.”
Stopping by our home for drinks one evening before heading out to dinner, dentist and Arnold Palmer friend Howdy Giles was looking at some photos on our basement wall when one caught his attention. “Is that Tiger Woods’ autograph?” he asked, with a tone of disbelief.
“’It certainly is, I responded.
“How the hell did you ever get that —Tiger doesn’t do autographs,” he said.
The story happened as a result of my relationship with Admiral Bud Edney. Every round of golf I have had the opportunity to play with the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO has been memorable, but one, in particular, led to the rare Tiger autograph. It was a gift to my daughter, Carie.
Bud had invited me to join him for the multi-day member-guest golf tournament at the Naval Academy golf course in Annapolis. You can’t help but receive special treatment when you are playing golf at the Naval Academy with the highest-ranking officer there (Bud is also a former Commandant at the Academy), who happened at that time to be Chair of Leadership and Ethics Department.
One of those we were paired with, turned out to be a retired Navy psychologist by the name of Jay Brunza. I would learn over the course of the day that no one, with the exception of Earl Woods, had more to do with the development of young Tiger Woods than Brunza. Not only did he impart his sports performance wisdom to Tiger, he caddied for him in his first five national championships.
I mentioned to Brunza during the round that my daughter was a big Tiger Woods fan and that she had recently made a hole-in-one. As we parted that day, he asked me for my address and said he would send Carie something from Tiger.
Months went by and I never thought of it again. Then, some four months later, a small package arrived in the mail addressed to Carie. Inside was a nice note from Jay Brunza to Carie reciting how he had played golf with her father, learned of her interest in golf and Tiger Woods, and promised he would have Tiger send something. It was a scorecard from Augusta National Golf Club, autographed, “To Carie, Best Wishes, Tiger Woods.”
There is a footnote to this story that is almost hard to believe.
A few years later I was meeting Senator Carper and others for breakfast at the Green Room at the Hotel DuPont. When I entered the elegant dining room, Carper was already seated. As I started to join him, he said, “Guess who’s here —Tiger Woods’ father. Before you sit down, let’s go over and say hello.” (As I recall, Woods was in Wilmington to meet with officials from the “First Tee,” a youth development program introducing the game of golf and its inherent values to young people.)
Earl Woods stood up when we approached and was obviously pleased to meet the Senator, who began to tell him that I was a pretty good golfer (seemed like a ridiculous thought, talking to someone living at Tiger Woods level). I then mentioned the story about Jay Brunza and the Augusta National scorecard autographed by Tiger. As I was speaking, he reached into his briefcase and pulled out an Augusta National scorecard. He asked my daughter’s name and began to write on the card. It said:
Carie, Play well and enjoy yourself. Share love with others and be yourself. Earl Woods
My guess at the time was there couldn’t be too many kids that had Augusta National scorecards autographed by both Tiger Woods and his father.