The Charlie Woods mania should call for some navel-gazing

Mark McGowan

Charlie Woods during his Cognizant Classic pre-qualifier (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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It’s rare that a PGA Tour Monday qualifier draws a crowd, even though there are often multiple Tour winners hoping to play their way in, and it’s rarer still that a pre-qualifier – a qualifier to get into the qualifier – attracts fans but news that Charlie Woods was in the field at the Lost Lake qualifier quickly spread like wildfire across social media.

Wood is 15, and a very accomplished golfer as we’ve seen when he’s teed it up alongside his father at the PNC Championship, but besides having the most famous surname in golf, his skillset doesn’t particularly distinguish him from hundreds of other junior golfers in his age bracket.

But this didn’t stop the PGA Tour media from posting videos of him arriving in the car park, letting us know that he was the first player on the range – he was in the second group out so that’s not particularly shocking – and posting another video of his opening tee shot, complete with club twirl.

So is it any wonder that a large (for a pre-qualifier) 50-strong gallery turned up, most probably hoping that Tiger would be on bagman duty, ready to snap pictures of the father and son duo and be able to say that they were there when the heir to the golfing throne first qualified for a PGA Tour event and here’s the proof.

Of course it didn’t pan out that way for young Charlie, nor, for the realists at least, was it expected to. But there were no ropes because, well, why would there be? It’s a qualifier to a qualifier, but the mania surrounding all members of the Woods family is crazy. The Palm Beach Post reports fans crowding around Charlie as he walked up the fairways despite repeated requests from the tournament officials to remain on the cart paths, of fans scrambling around in bushes to retrieve a souvenir after he’d driven out of bounds and had to re-load, and most bizarrely, of a grandmother who’d taken her teenage granddaughter out of school and brought her to the course in the hope that Charlie would notice her.

And I repeat, he’s 15!

In another claim, the Palm Beach Post says that a woman approached Charlie with a copy of Tiger’s How I Play Golf book, demanding that he autograph it for her and then began protesting that she lived there when she was told that it wasn’t allowed. Asking for an autograph because he shares half the genetic makeup of the man that ‘wrote’ the book you’re holding may not be as bizarre as effectively pimping out your presumably adolescent granddaughter, but it seems there are no boundaries when it comes to the lunacy surrounding a Woods.

Yesterday’s round was something of a wake up call for Charlie. Not because of the numbers he put on his scorecard – it’s golf, it happens to us all – but because this is what awaits him if he ever makes it to the top division as a pro. Being Tiger’s son opens doors that will forever remain closed to thousands of other aspiring young golfers, but it’s a poisoned chalice, and he got his first bitter sip from it yesterday as he had to rely on a security detail including a sheriff’s deputy to ensure his safety.

What son of a successful father doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps? What son doesn’t strive for the recognition, the adulation, and most of all, his father’s approval?

I’ve always said that even making it onto the PGA Tour is huge odds against for Charlie, but his experiences on Thursday may make him question if it’s something he even wants. Had things panned out differently on the course and Charlie made it through to the Monday qualifier, imagine what would unfold…

I get why the PGA Tour would want to promote that Tiger’s son was having a go, and kudos to him for doing so, but it’s neither fair nor ethical to be pushing their own agenda at the expense of a 15-year-old and the Tour’s media department would want to take a long, hard look at themselves.

His father named his yacht ‘Privacy’ for a reason. The surname ‘Woods’ puts you under the microscope, and it’s something his father has learned to deal with and excel in the face of, but it’s a shame it has to be that way.

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