The last time Tiger Woods played Bellerive his trip was cut short for understandable reasons. He was playing a practice round for the WGC-American Express Championship on September 11, 2001.
Asked about the memory during his PGA Championship pre-tourney presser, the four-time winner recalled his past visit.
“2001 was a very surreal time,” Woods said. “I had done an American Express clinic here in town and I played a practice round with (Mark Calcavecchia), and the tragedies that happened transpired. One of the towers had fallen on the American Express building, and a lot of people at American Express weren’t — were struggling at the time and I think (PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem) made the right move in cancelling the event.
“That was on the 11th and I drove home on the 13th and 17 hours to get back home to Florida, and it was a very surreal time for myself on that drive and a lot of reflecting.”
The event and subsequent drive back to Florida changed Woods in more ways than one, as this was the time he decided to make changes to his foundation’s aim. Once a golf “traveling circus” in the player’s own words, he decided to take a more holistic approach in the venture’s future.
“A couple weeks later I sat down with my dad and i said, ‘Hey, Dad, I think we need to change the foundation and the directive and how we go about it.’ And he says, ‘What do you have in mind?’ Well, it has to be along the lines of how I grew up,” Woods said.
“It was family, then academics, and then golf or whatever sport I was playing at the time. So he said, ‘Okay, let me get back to you in a week or so,’ and that’s when we got the lease from the City of Anaheim, 50 years for one dollar a year, and we built our learning lab there in Anaheim and on the golf course where I played my high school golf.”
The foundation has since grown exponentially, with a STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) aimed at providing a “safe space for kids to explore their dreams” according to the foundation website.
“That one drive changed the entire direction of my foundation,” Woods said.
Tiger tees off at 8:23 a.m. Thursday alongside Rory McIlroy and defending PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas. Stay connected to 101 ESPN and 101Sports.com for plenty of coverage throughout the week and weekend.