Ok Tiger Woods haters. Get your fingers ready to send a nasty email response. But in short, here it is: No single athlete has done more for his or her individual sport, as Tiger Woods has for golf. Period.
Yes, of course, what Serena Williams has done for tennis and women’s tennis in particular is remarkable. The influx of young girls of color into tennis is due to her tireless efforts and outstanding play, truly taking the sport to a level it had never seen. Some might argue what about Muhammad Ali and what he did for the world of boxing, making him and the sport a “world”-wide success. Same thing goes for Pele’. Without Babe Ruth who knows what baseball would look like today. And let’s not even get started on the MJ vs. LeBron deal.
But let’s talk about Woods for a moment, even though he isn’t necessarily as well-liked or respected as a person as those referenced above.
When I was a teen in the ‘80s, I knew of no other teen that played golf or practiced golf. No way did any of them have their own set of clubs. It wasn’t cool. That’s not what we did. We’d occasionally mess around at the putt putt places, hitting colored balls under giraffes and around lion statues. But that was about it.
That’s not true today, as golf enthusiasm continues to grow at a record pace among youth. My son got his first set of clubs when he was 14 because his friends all had them and he wanted to play. Golf-related manufacturers, golf courses, golf apparel companies, etc. can all thank one person for starting that trend, and now continuing it. Tiger Woods.
Before Woods came on the scene in the late ‘90s, golf was dying. TV viewers of golf were older white men. Players of golf were older white men. The game’s legendary stars like Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer were either off the tour or all but done.
Woods’ first win at the Masters was in 1997. He was 19. He beat the runner up (Tom Kite) by a whopping “12” strokes. Twelve strokes. That’s unheard of today, and in fact still sits as a record for largest margin of victory at the Masters. But let’s get back to why no single athlete has done more for his or her individual sport, as Tiger Woods has for golf.
Here’s the ‘Tiger Effect.’ In the decade after Woods’ victory at the Masters in 1997, here’s what happened:
- The number of golfers in the U.S. increased by 22%
- The number of 18-hole golf courses increased by 16%
- The number of college golf programs tripled
- Nike, who paid Woods to endorse their newly-formed golf division, made $103 million in “profit” from sales of their golf balls alone!
In contrast, here are some other numbers. These numbers are from the last decade, when Woods was injured, was in a horrible slump, and had a slew of off-course problems:
- 800. Bloomberg Businessweek magazine said that's approximately how many golf courses have closed over the past decade.
- Just within the past couple of years, Nike announced it would stop making golf balls. (After making $103 million in profit alone when Tiger was hot).
- There also is the research from the National Golf Foundation that shows participation in the sport had declined 20 percent per year since the early 2000s.
Woods hadn’t won a major tournament since 2008 and the golf world knew it.
Then let’s visit last year, 2018, where Woods makes his comeback. Suddenly TV ratings jump immediately. After tying for 32nd in the Masters and not even making the cut in the U.S. Open in 2018, suddenly he is on the leader board of the British Open. Then, right here in St. Louis, he almost wins the 2018 PGA Championship and comes in second.
Here come your stats from the National Golf Foundation regarding last year:
- Last year 2.6 million people in the U.S. played their first round of 18 holes
- Of those new golfers, 26% are minorities, 31% are female, and 62% were under age 35.
- Further, 14.7 “non-golfers” have a strong interest in playing golf in 2019.
I’m not asking you to like Tiger Woods, or cheer for him, or pay any attention to him at all. Just realize there IS a ‘Tiger Effect,’ it’s back. Drive by any driving range this weekend and you’ll see it in full force.