Details You Didn't Know About Tiger Woods' Father

The 2021 HBO documentary "Tiger" — about the life and career of golf star Tiger Woods — begins with a recording of a speech given by Tiger's father, Earl. The documentary's co-director Matthew Hamachek says it's the "most important" of any footage included in the film (via Yahoo!).


The speech took place at the Haskins Collegiate Award Banquet in 1996. And, while the words Earl spoke about Tiger clearly demonstrate immense pride and love, they also highlight some incredibly high expectations that Tiger must have felt obligated to live up to. 

Though Tiger was just 21 at the time, Earl said that his son "will transcend this game and bring to the world a humanitarianism which has never been known before." 

Earl continued: "Sometimes I get very emotional when I talk about my son. My heart fills with so much joy when I realize that this young man is going to help so many people. The world will be a better place to live in by virtue of his existence and his presence. This is my treasure. Please accept it and use it wisely."


Some believe that Earl had such high expectations of Tiger because he himself had achieved remarkable things and assumed his son would do the same. And, indeed, Earl, who died in 2006, did achieve remarkable things during his 74 years on this planet.

Earl Woods found early success in life

Tiger's dad, Earl Woods, was also an athlete with a major claim to fame himself: He was the first Black baseball player to play for Kansas State University and in the Big Seven Conference, which is now called the Big 12 Conference, per


Later, Earl was a member of the Army Special Forces and served two tours in the Vietnam War, per Esquire, including one spent planting explosives behind enemy lines. Vietnam was also where Earl learned to golf himself — and where he met Tiger's mother, Kultida.

By the time Earl retired from active military service in 1974, he had earned the high rank of lieutenant colonel. His father's service inspired Tiger to make many donations to charitable causes that help veterans and military families. Earl also steered Tiger toward his interest in education and children's welfare, which eventually led to the creation of the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Next, Earl worked at companies that dealt with defense contracting, including Arrowhead Products, Brunswick Corp., and McDonnell Douglas. All the while, though, he was an attentive father who was deeply invested in Tiger's success.


His influence wasn't always positive

Unfortunately, some of Earl Woods' bad behavior rubbed off on his son. When Tiger's cheating scandal, divorce, and brief stint in rehab for sex addiction become mainstream news in 2009, many blamed his father's well-known infidelity.


PGA Director Joe Grohman was interviewed for the documentary "Tiger," and he didn't mince words about the truth of these accusations, per SheKnows. "Earl was a great great dad, but I don't know how to smooth this one over," he said. "I assure you that we were not the best role models when it came to honoring your marriage." 

Grohman went on to say that Earl had a Winnebago on the golf course. He'd often teach women how to golf, and, "after the lesson, they'd go into the Winnebago for cocktails."

Earl's behavior greatly upset his young son. Tiger's high school girlfriend, Dina Parr, also appeared in the documentary and described a phone call with a young Tiger. 

After he cried uncontrollably for a short period, Parr remembers that "he finally caught his breath and said, 'My dad's out again. He met this girl and they're going out.' The sound of Tiger's voice was so upsetting. And his dad, I don't think, really cared that he knew it. I think that also bothered him, like, 'Why would you not try to hide this from me? Why would you just let me see this?'"


But, no matter the complex relationship between father and son, they were always very close — with Earl a constant presence, both on and off the golf course, while Tiger played. And, before he passed away, Earl correctly predicted that Tiger would go on to win at least 14 major championships. He has, thus far, won 15.  

Earl Woods believed Tiger was 'the chosen one'

Earl Woods believed his son, Tiger, was more than just a great golfer — he thought he could change the world.

"He's the bridge between the East and the West," Earl told Sports Illustrated. "I don't know yet exactly what form this will take. But he is the Chosen One. He'll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power."


While this might seem like a lot of pressure for Tiger, it shouldn't be surprising that Earl always had high hopes for his son. By 2 years old, Tiger was swinging a golf club like a pro, catching the public's eye during an appearance on a late-night show with Bob Hope

At the age of 15, he became the youngest winner of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, according to Britannica. In addition, he earned three consecutive U.S. Amateur Championships as well as the collegiate title while enrolled at Stanford University in 1996.

Tiger, however, insisted that his father never forced him to play golf or put pressure on him to be the best. In fact, he was more scared of his mom, Kultida, than his dad.


"As we said in our family, my mom was the hand, and my dad was the voice," Woods wrote in "The 1997 Masters: My Story," per USA Today. "I could negotiate with him, but not with my mom. There was no middle ground with Mom."

He didn't exactly make friends with Tiger's teachers

The golf world wasn't the only place Earl Woods made an impression. Tiger's school teachers were reportedly not big fans of the elder Woods. 

"None of the teachers were happy to see Earl coming in for a conference or for anything at all," Maureen Decker, Tiger's kindergarten teacher, said in the HBO documentary "Tiger," per Detroit Free Press. "They said he was a pain in the a**. That's what they said, and I agreed with them."


Decker revealed that she once had to tell Earl that his son was interested in playing other sports besides golf. "He was a definite S.O.B. So I didn't want to say anything to aggravate Earl," she explained. "But I did say that I thought it would be nice if Tiger could play other sports. But Mr. Woods said he had to concentrate on his golf."

Tiger's high school girlfriend, Dina Parr, also believed that Earl put too much pressure on his son and noted that he enjoyed spending time at her house. "He knew that he could be himself," she said, "and there was no judgment and no pressure to live up to all these expectations."

Earl Woods named his son after someone he met in Vietnam

Many people might not realize that Tiger Woods' given name on his birth certificate is actually Eldrick Tont Woods, and the professional athlete has even used the initials ETW for one of his companies, ETW Corporation, according to Golf News Net.


So where does "Tiger" come from? It's a nickname Earl gave his son as a tribute to someone he met while serving in the Army during the Vietnam War. While there, he became close friends with a South Vietnamese soldier named Col. Vuong Dang Phong, and Earl had given him the nickname Tiger. He then passed the moniker down to his child.

But that wasn't the only name Earl had for his son. In fact, he often called him Sam. "My father had always called me Sam since the day I was born. He rarely ever called me Tiger," the golf champ explained (via People). "I would ask him, 'Why don't you ever call me Tiger?' He says, 'Well, you look more like a Sam.'"

So, when Tiger and then-wife Elin Nordegren welcomed their first child — a girl — in 2007, they decided to name her Sam Alexis. 


Tiger is not Earl Woods' only child

While Earl Woods was best known as the father of Tiger Woods, he also had other children from a previous marriage. He and ex-wife Barbara Gary shared three children: sons Earl Jr. and Kevin Dale and daughter Royce Renee, according to Golf Digest


Although he has older siblings, Tiger doesn't seem to be close to them. In fact, Earl Jr. has publicly complained that they haven't heard from Tiger since their father passed away, which is especially hurtful to brother Kevin, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. 

"I leave messages," Earl Jr. told ESPN. "I leave updates on Kevin, but for whatever reason I don't get a response. Kevin loves Tiger. A call from Tiger would really pump Kevin up. When he doesn't call, it just makes him feel worse."

Tiger does have a relationship, however, with Earl Jr.'s daughter, Cheyenne, who is also a professional golfer. The oldest Woods child believes things would be different if his father were still around. "My dad was a bonding agent," he explained. "He encouraged us to keep in touch, protect each other, circle the wagons."