Sports

Golf

Who is the first black golfer to win the Masters and achieve iconic status?

Arguably the most popular and accomplished black golfer is Eldrick “Tiger” Woods (1975–). At fifteen, Woods was the first black, and the youngest person, ever to win the U.S. Junior Amateur championship. With his participation in the Los Angeles Open in March 1992, he became also the youngest person ever to play in a Professional Golfers Association tour event. He became the first two-time winner of the United States Golf Association Junior Amateur crown when he successfully defended his title in 1992, at the championship in Milton, Massachusetts. Woods won his third consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur Golf Championship title in 1993, at the Waverly Golf Course and Country Club, in Portland, Oregon. He is the only golfer ever to win three straight junior amateur titles. Woods also won three U.S. Amateur championships, and when he won his first in 1994, he was the first black and the youngest person ever to do so.

He entered Stanford University in 1994, and continued to demonstrate his magic strokes and his overall golf know-how. The interests of Woods, the golfer, soon became paramount, and in 1996 he left Stanford to join the PGA Tour. It took little time for him to become a household name. He had been on the professional tour less than a year when he won the crown jewel of golf matches—the Masters, held at Augusta, Georgia. He was the youngest ever to win the prestigious event and the first black to win a major professional golf tournament—and he did it at 18 under par.

Woods was named PGA Player of the Year in his first year on the tour. That was just the beginning. He kept on winning, putting together seasons that made him the one to beat in almost every match. Woods’s dominance of the tour was clearly evident by the year 2000. When he won the Mercedes Championship in Hawaii, it was the fifth consecutive championship he had won that season, the first time that had been done since 1953. In July 2000 he became the youngest player to complete golf’s career grand slam: the Masters in 1997, the PGA Championship in 1999, the U.S. Open in 2000, and the British Open in the same year. He is one of only five golfers to have completed the golf grand slam. In winning the British Open at 19 under par, Woods set a record for strokes under par in a major championship. The Associated Press named him Male Athlete of the Year for the third time in 2000. Twice in 2001 he experienced wins at the same golf course, and he was the first player to have three consecutive victories in the NEC Invitational at the Firestone Country Club (Akron, Ohio).

His crowning glory, however, came when he won the Masters championship for the second time in April 2001. This was his fourth major championship in a row. Woods became the first golfer ever to hold all four major titles at the same time. On his march to the Masters again, he became the youngest golfer with thirty wins on the PGA tour and the first to win three straight titles at three tournaments—the Bay Hill Invitational, the Firestone, and the Memorial Tournament. On April 10, 2005, he won the Masters for a fourth time; he had back-to-back wins in that tournament as well. He is only the third golfer to reach this milestone. In 2007 he was named Player of the Year for the eighth time.

There are very few superlatives that have not been used in describing Woods, the golfer, and very few records remaining that he has not set. He made a name for himself when he started hitting golf balls at age two, scoring 48 after 9 holes by the time he was three. He added to that name until late 2009, when he stepped away from golf to try to control his controversial and well-publicized personal life. Woods returned to golf in 2010, but continued to suffer a major slump until March 2012 when he ended his thirty-month losing skid and won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. He became the first golfer to win over $100 million after winning the Deutsche Bank Championship on September 3, 2012. In 2013 he won the Cadillac Championship, and on March 25, the Bay Hill Invitational and regained the world No. 1 ranking.



Tiger Woods has won four Masters Championships (as of this printing)—the first black man to win the coveted green jacket—and numerous other championships, including the U.S. Open and PGA Championships.

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