Cheyenne Woods shares the family talent

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2013
Cheyenne Woods
Photosport
BIG SHOES: American golfer Cheyenne Woods says sometimes it feels ‘‘surreal’’ to have an uncle as famous as Tiger.

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The two New Zealand journalists in the room wanted to tread carefully with Cheyenne Woods, but we needn't have bothered.

Neither of us knew her and, as a niece of Tiger Woods, we suspected she'd been asked a few too many Tiger-related questions already in her 22 years, assuming she would be sick to the core with that particular line of questioning.

So naturally there were a few questions to ease her in, such as how are you finding New Zealand? What do you think of the Clearwater course? All stock standard stuff.

We got through 10 questions before Tiger's name came up - possibly a world first, though he was next on the agenda when Cheyenne mentioned him herself.

"Since I was five years old I've been watching Tiger play on TV and I always knew that's what I wanted to do," Woods said, answering a question about how she got started in the game.

"So to be able to be on my own path now to try and be on the LPGA Tour one day is really exciting."

Amid her own laughter Woods would later estimate that 75-80 per cent of the questions she gets asked are to do with Tiger.

But there is no suggestion she finds them tiresome. Quite the contrary.

"It's pretty normal for me," she said. "Ever since I started playing nationally I've had the Tiger Woods questions so it's something that I've grown accustomed to. It's part of my life.

"I don't get sick of it. I understand, being a journalist, that's the story you're going to be interested in."

Like so many of her generation, Cheyenne grew up idolising Tiger, first watching him play golf while she was still in a stroller.

She is a daughter of Earl Woods Jr, Tiger's older brother, and learnt the game from the same man as Tiger, her grandfather Earl Woods Sr, who started teaching her when she was five. She was playing tournaments at eight.

"My grandfather got me my first set [of clubs] and really got me started. He guided me through my junior career."

But Tiger has been a "huge influence", too.

"I'm a huge fan. It's exciting to see his journey and how successful and dominant he's been. I'm proud of him and to have him as a part of my family is a huge motivation.

"Sometimes it's surreal to me to think that he is blood, that he is my uncle. It's cool."

They keep in touch "with a text message here and there". "He'll keep up with where I am and I'm always watching him on TV."

The facial resemblance between the two is quite striking, and Cheyenne has also had her own taste of success on the golf course.

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She won more than 30 tournaments as an amateur and, after graduating from Wake Forest University in May last year, she turned professional, winning in Florida last August on a secondary United States tour.

After missing out at the first stage of LPGA Tour qualifying school, she won conditional status on the European Tour at their Q-school event, which brings her to Christchurch for the New Zealand Open, co-sanctioned between Europe and Australia, and next week's Australian Open.

"It's my first time to New Zealand and Australia so I'm trying to take it all in and enjoy every day," she said, answering another question with a broad smile.

"Being able to travel and play golf professionally has always been a dream of mine, so to be able to do it now and visit these cool places has been really fun."

A native of Phoenix, Arizona, Woods has embarked on her first year as a pro on her own (although her coach is only an email away), and there have been some rookie mistakes as a traveller - such as losing her passport and missing a flight from the Gold Coast to Christchurch.

"I've just been all over the place, and I'm just by myself with my little suitcase," she laughs.

But she's confident in her game. She highlights putting and wedge play as strengths and is trying to get more consistent with her ball-striking.

"I had the chance to play last week [33rd at the Australian Ladies Masters in her first start of the season] and I felt in the final two rounds, things came together well. I feel excited about where my game is and I love this course, so hopefully it's going to be a good few days."

- The Press

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