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November 2, 2019

Tiger and Sam Snead

Last week Tiger Woods equaled Sam Snead's career PGA Tour win total. He did it with the skill of a surgeon preforming a delicate operation. His focus and command of his game was as good as it ever had been. Amazing that this feat came after a nine week absence from tournament golf and following another knee surgery! Tiger Woods continues to amaze!

In 1981, I received a call from Norm Bernard, the head professional at Redlands Country Club in California. I had the privilege of working under him as an assistant professional six years before. In 1981, I was a head professional at Broadmoor Country Club in Indianapolis. Norm was excited to tell me about an experience that he just had and that he had just seen the next super-star golfer. The super-star was a five year old boy by the name of Eldrick Woods. Of course I was very suspicious of such a claim, but Norm was adamant that he was seeing greatness. Norm had invited Tiger and his dad, Earl Woods, to give an exhibition for the Men's Club of Redlands. Earl and Norm conducted the clinic with Tiger hitting shots on demand; high hook, low fade, straight, etc. Earl described his training for Tiger and plans for his future. Norm said that Tiger was just wonderful, polite, and performed each shot expertly. My only response to his call, was that time will tell.

In 1982, Norm again was present when Tiger and Sam Snead played a two hole exhibition at Quail Lake Golf Course in Saboba Springs, California. If you know anything about Snead, he can be a bit grumpy, aloof, and was a bit put-off with having to play with a now six year old kid. Snead had a dagger needle wit and he was always looking to get an advantage. So he started off needling Tiger. Tiger didn't let anything bother him and just played his game. On the final hole, Sam challenged Tiger to a bet from 50 yards for a buck. Snead put a nice wedge shot up about four feet from the hole and needled Tiger to match him. Little Tiger put it inside Snead. Both made their putts and no money was exchanged. Little did Sam know that this little kid was going to match and probably shortly surpass his tournament win record.

I had good mentors in the golf profession. Norm Bernard was the consummate golf professional. He was always looking to do that was best for his club and the membership. No job was too big or too little for him. Do the job the right way with others in mind first and your rewards will happen. I was honored to write his recommendation letter for Southern California Section PGA Professional of the Year, which he won in 1986. Sad that he passed away too early, but his legacy and love for his profession lives on.

Tiger is not the stud that he was in the in his 20's. He is like a baseball pitcher that in his youth could just overpower the opposition. Now that the fastball isn't as fast, he must rely on his experience, guile, and use different pitches to fool and confuse the batters. In Japan, Tiger drove the ball wonderfully. However, he usually was fifteen to twenty yards behind Gary Woodland and Keegan Bradley. He now has to be more precise and craft his way around the golf course. At the ZOZO Championship, you saw that he is more than capable of this different approach. Winning the Tour Championship was great, but it came with struggle. The Masters win was tremendous, but he needed a bit of help from his competitors. This past tournament was a vintage Tiger Woods win. Tiger played and the rest were playing for second. Soon Sam Snead will be second in all-time PGA wins.

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