This morning’s electronic sports news was sprinkled with headlines about Cheyenne Woods, and those headlines overwhelmingly included the tag, “Tiger Woods‘ niece” in their coverage of Cheyenne Woods’ win at the RACV Australian Ladies Masters. Really? Did Tiger have something to do with that win? Or with Cheyenne’s pro career? Not that I can discern. This will be the first and last time that I make reference to the family connection between Cheyenne Woods and Tiger Woods. That accident of biology and genetics really doesn’t bear on either of their golf games and Cheyenne deserves better than to be constantly identified by sports writers and commentators as Tiger’s niece. She says as much herself:
I‘ve been a pro for two years and, for the majority of [that time] people just think of me as Tiger Woods’ niece . . . now I have a game of my own and a title . . .
Cheyenne Woods, 2014 Australian Ladies Masters Champion
Let’s take a look at twenty-three year old Woods’ golf resume. She’s no stranger to competitive golf. Coached first by her grandfather, Woods honed her golf skills during an impressively successful amateur career that began in high school, where she played on the Xavier College Preparatory golf team that won back-to-back Arizona 5A state championships in 2006 and 2007. In high school Woods was three times voted MVP by her teammates.
Xavier College Prep provides a rich training ground for young women golfers. Woods’ Xavier teammates who have played or will play collegiate and professional golf include Amanda Blumenherst (Duke, LPGA), Marissa Smith (Arizona), Margarita Ramos (Arizona, Symetra, LET), Melissa Mabanta (UNLV, Symetra), Ashley Smith (Arizona State), Alexia Brown (Portland State) and Katie Allare (Notre Dame). From Xavier, Woods moved on to the Wake Forest University golf team Demon Deacons. During her collegiate career Woods won more than 30 championships, including the 2011 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship, and was twice named All-American. While at Wake Forest Woods began to test the pro golf waters. In 2009 she played in the Wegman’s LPGA Championship, missing the cut by four strokes. She took another run at the pro world two years later. In 2011 she missed qualifying for the US Women’s Open by 1 shot. She didn’t give up. The following year, after graduating from Wake Forest with a degree in communication, Woods qualified for the 2012 US Women’s Open. She made her pro debut at the 2012 LPGA Championship, and she earned her first pro win at the 2012 SunCoast Ladies Series. In 2013 Woods player her rookie year on the LET. She entered 11 events, made eight cuts, and had three top-10 finishes. She claimed her first LET victory at the 2014 Australian Ladies Masters. Through this journey from high school to her victory last weekend, a journey that began when she was a young teenager and has spanned a decade, did she ever talk about golf with her uncle? Of course she did. And it’s likely she even sought advice and counsel, and it’s likely he gave it. But do those probabilities of family dynamics eclipse Cheyenne Woods’ athletic achievements? Certainly not. Congratulations on your victory at the 2014 Australian Ladies Masters, Cheyenne Woods! May you have many more!