Tiger Woods: “I’m excited about show and tell at school.”

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates with the Masters Trophy during the Green Jacket Ceremony after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates with the Masters Trophy during the Green Jacket Ceremony after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images) /

When people asked me about Tiger Woods before all his injuries took him out of golf, I really didn’t know what to tell them because he was always so guarded in all his answers in the press room.  He came in, said all the right things, answered all the questions, but it was often mechanical.

He appeared to be closed off.  I’d call it women’s intuition, but even the guys agreed on this.  That was the old Tiger Woods.

Now, with Woods’ latest comeback, there’s a big change in his attitude toward media, toward fans, toward life, at least as far as I can see, and I only see Woods at press conferences.

The best way to describe the new, “kinder, gentler Tiger,” is by sharing his closing press conference comment after winning the Masters.

“I’m excited about show-and-tell at school,” Woods said as he got up from his chair in the media center.  What? Show-and-tell?

This is a guy who has 81 PGA Tour victories, numerous international titles, more money than the U.S. Treasury and every possible thing a human being could need.  But he wants to take his Masters jacket to his kids show-and tell.  This is a guy we can relate to.  You’ve felt the same way about your kids and show-and-tell.  Maybe he’s more like us than we thought. This is the new Tiger Woods.

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Woods’ daughter, Sam, is 11.  His son, Charlie, is nine. Kids being kids will likely understand that dad just won a big event, and lots of people cheered for him.  And it was probably louder than anything they have ever heard before.

When the show-and-tell day comes, Sam and Charlie’s schoolmates might not understand what winning the Masters was all about. They might remember to tell their parents that Sam and Charlie’s dad brought this funny green coat to school because he won it playing golf.

Hopefully, Woods will be smart enough to do something a friend of mine did once with her late husband’s green jacket.

Sam Casey was a member of Augusta National and also a former CEO of the Pullman Company, the folks that made train cars.  In his day, he was kind of a big deal, really and truly, not in the Ron Burgundy sense.

Helen Casey, his wife, then widow, was a friend of mine.  They lived in Naples, Florida, when I knew them.

In 2007, I went to Naples for the Shark Shootout.  It was about a year after Sam died.  Helen was kind enough to have me as her house guest for the week.

She told me she had a plan to do something special at the Shark ShootOut for 5-year-old Kyle Lograsso, who at the time was battling bilateral retinoblastoma, a kind of cancer that had affected his eyes.  He was being honored at the ShootOut because they raise money to help fight childhood cancer.  Kyle was a big golf fan, or as big a fan as you can be when you are five.

Helen wanted to arrange a surprise photo of Kyle wearing her late husband’s green jacket.

She said she happened to have one in her closet, and she needed my help to get it done. A partner in crime.

I didn’t ask how she got the jacket. She wasn’t going to tell me anyway.  Some things you don’t ask. It’s like that fight club thing where the number one rule is you don’t talk about fight club.

We were going to try to take the photo in the media center.  Helen had arranged for one of the local photographers to take the shots.

She and I packed up our media materials/ computers and so forth that we needed for the tournament on the big day.  The last item to go into her VW bug, hidden inside a beige zip-up travel bag, was the jacket.  I felt like we were carrying the nuclear codes for the President.

We parked where we were supposed to and hoofed it to the media center. Helen went into stealth mode, working with the media staff to arrange a time for Kyle to come in when no one would be around.  She had left the jacket in the car. Locked.

Once we had the time set, Helen went to retrieve the coat. Kyle materialized. The photographer arrived on cue. And Helen unzipped the cover and rolled up the sleeves of the jacket at least twice to almost fit Kyle’s small arms.

Helen sat in one of the chairs where tournament interviewees usually sit, and Kyle sat on her lap.  I stood guard to make sure nobody walked in to see what was happening. It was all very stealth.

Photos were snapped.  Kyle and his family were thrilled. No one knew at the time whether he would live much longer. And they would always have this photo of their son who loves golf in a green jacket.

Then as quietly as it had arrived, the coat went back in the bag  out of sight.  Helen took it back to the car and secured it.  It was a very nice thing to do, really.

Helen Casey died two-and-a-half years later.  A couple of strokes, I was told.  Aside from being a friend, she was 100% one-of-a-kind. At her death, she was working on a book called Every Day is Ladies Day at Augusta National, now unfinished and missing.  She would have been thrilled to see Drive, Chip and Putt and the women’s amateur event that Augusta National has created.

However, whenever people talk about green jackets, what I remember is the extremely nice thing Helen Casey did for a young golf fan without needing or wanting any attention or praise for it.  We should all do that kind of thing every now and again if we can.

Kyle has done well, despite losing vision in one eye.  He often participates in fund-raising activities for cancer research. He still loves golf.

So, when Woods mentioned show-and-tell, right away, I thought of him wearing the green jacket at school, and it reminded me of Helen and her young friend, Kyle.  I wondered if perhaps Woods’ “people” would be smart enough to make the show-and-tell day memorable not just for his children, but for the rest of the boys and girls in Sam and Charlie’s classes by getting some photos taken with the newest Masters champ.

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I certainly hope so.  Helen Casey, at least, would have approved.