I have not been shy in my support and admiration for Tiger Woods. He burst onto the scene and changed the game of golf, opening it up for a whole new world of young people who never would have had a chance to experience it without him. Woods broke down racist barriers and fans should remember in his early days, he was playing tournaments on courses at clubs that never had a African-American member, and would never even let a African-American player be a guest on the course.
As an 80-plus year-old golfer, I started playing the game in the 1930s as a teenager, and continued in the 1940s and 1950s. There were no African-American players on the courses, in most cases even the caddies were white. I lived in that world and it makes me mad when I hear racist comments that harken back to those dark days.
Pro golfers Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods have been feuding for years and the flames were fanned recently by more comments during The Players Championship (won by Woods) from Garcia. Sergio claimed Tiger caused a disturbance in the gallery while he was hitting a shot. The two trash talked a bit back and forth, with Garcia basically saying he could care less what Tiger thinks of him and has no desire to talk to him. Then at a press conference, Tiger simply answered no, when asked if he wanted to make up with Garcia. The racist comment a few days later from Garcia took it all to a new low. At a European Tour awards dinner on May 21st, Garcia was asked if he planned on having Tiger over for dinner during the U.S. Open, and Garcia replied: “We will have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken.”
To me, there is no excuse, no apology for a comment like that. Someone who says something like that, feels that way and they are apologizing for getting caught, not because they feel remorse. They are sorry for what it’s done to them, not for how they made Tiger or other African-Americans feel. Garcia has already apologized via a statement direct from the European Tour: “I apologize for any offense that may have been caused by my comment on stage during The European Tour Players’ Awards dinner. I answered a question that was clearly made towards me as a joke with a silly remark, but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner.” How you can comment about cooking fried chicken for an African-American man and not mean it “in a racist manner?”
The response from Tiger
To date, Tiger has made no official response and he will probably stay above it, preferring to keep winning tournaments.
What should happen to Garcia?
I think he should be suspended from tournament play and fined, just as would happen if he played in the NFL or MLB and did the same thing. Like it or not, Garcia has millions of fans around the world and the lesson they should learn from this is racism is wrong. Tiger does a lot of work with inner-city youth through his Tiger Woods Foundation and introducing them to golf. It would be great to see Garcia team up with Tiger and participate in some of those clinics.
The comment by Garcia is reminiscent of another racist comment about Tiger Woods, from Fuzzy Zoeller. In 1997, after Woods won his first Masters, Zoeller commented: “You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not serve fried chicken next year. Got it? Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.” Zoeller apologized but it added to his less than respectable image.
Ted Sherman is a life-long golf player and fan of the game. As he ages, he tends to watch more golf than he plays, but still gets out on the course or the range a few times a month. Follow Ted on Twitter,@travel4seniors.
More from this contributor:
Was Tiger Woods’ Ex-Caddie’s Remark Racist? Fan’s View
What’s in Tiger Woods’ Golf Bag? Fan’s View
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