Back home in England my friends jokingly call me Tiger Tamer, and
last week, as I was playing in the U.S. Amateur, a newspaper
described me as the guy who "whipped Tiger Woods." Those remarks
are flattering, but they are over the top.
True, I am the last player who beat Tiger when he was an amateur,
the victory coming in a singles match on the first day of the
1995 Walker Cup, which my Great Britain and Ireland team won
14-10. But Tiger got revenge by defeating me on the following day
at Royal Porthcawl in Wales. What's really fun is that he has
become the greatest athlete on earth and a zillionaire, while I'm
a golf club manager who struggles to make ends meet.
Tiger's talent was well known when he came to the Walker Cup, but
I genuinely wanted to play him. Being the underdog and a
short-knocker--I average 240 yards off the tee--I had nothing to
lose. I try to have a carefree attitude toward golf. Having seen
my father and grandmother succumb to cancer, I've learned that
golf is a part of life, not life itself. It was daunting to watch
Tiger in the rain and cold drive par-4s and reach par-5s in two
while I was coming in with tough third shots, but my short game
was good, and I stayed close to the Tiger, thanks mainly to the
difficult conditions. He also helped my cause by knocking a
couple of shots out of bounds early in the round. We were square
coming to 18 and both hit decent drives. I was away, and I put my
approach just off the green on the right. To everyone's amazement
Tiger yanked his shot OB, and I had a crucial one-up victory.
Tiger was once asked by a mutual acquaintance, "Remember the guy
you played against in the Walker Cup?" Tiger's reply was, "I have
bad memories of him." I'm sorry about that, because I have
profound respect for his abilities and statesmanship. In fact, I
have a mascot Tiger headcover and a Tiger key ring attached to my
golf bag. I suspect that my reputation as a Tiger tamer, bloated
as it may be, will never die. My phone still rings when he wins
another big tournament, and reporters beg for insight into how to
beat him. Of course, that's my secret.
Gary Wolstenholme, 40, was the 1991 British Amateur champion.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID WALBERG