I'll always remember what started off as a normal Saturday
morning in the spring of 1980. I was the head pro at Hartwell
Golf Park, a par-3 course in Long Beach, Calif., and a woman
came into my shop with her four-year-old boy. She said, "My
husband and I would like you to help our son with his game."
After watching Tiger take a cut-down 2 1/2-wood and launch shot
after shot about 75 yards, I told Mrs. Woods that I'd be happy
I worked with Tiger until he was 10, but ours wasn't a
conventional teacher-student relationship. He was already such a
good ball striker that we seldom discussed technique. Tiger and
I were always competing against each other. We had chipping,
putting and bunker contests. We invented games and spent lots of
time in the practice areas. We'd hit high and low shots with
every club--floaters with our drivers and low screamers with a
sand wedge. We'd see who could take the fewest strokes playing
through the legs of a bench on a tee, over the shrubs, down the
maintenance road and back to the tee, where you had to hit the
left tee marker. He wanted to win even those tee games and was
as competitive at five as he is today.
I always reminded Tiger to hole every putt and to play his
ball as it lay, whether it was in a divot or behind a tree. Pound
for pound he has always been superlong, and I let him swing as
hard as he wanted as long as he stayed in balance. Soon after we
started working together, Tiger was aiming down one side of the
fairway so he would have an open approach to the green.
When Tiger was six, he and I played an exhibition against another
pro and young boy at Chalk Mountain Golf Course in Atascadero,
Calif. The 12th hole is a 190-yard par-3 with a creek crossing
about 120 yards from the tee, and Tiger wasn't long enough to
carry the water. There was a little cart path that ran over the
creek. When Tiger's tee shot bounced off it and rolled up near
the green, I told him, "That was lucky." He smiled and said, "No
it wasn't. I was trying to do that."
If working with Tiger taught me anything, it's that fun and
practice--not swing knowledge --are the building blocks for a good
golfer. When Tiger was a child, he knew very little about
technique, but he always believed he could hit any shot. I'm glad
that in some ways he has never grown up.
Duran, 50, received the PGA Tour's 1999 Card Walker Award for
his contributions to junior golf, at the Mercedes Championships.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECKDuran (left) saw his famous pupil cash in last week in Kapalua.