Tiger Woods and one of the sweetest gestures you’ll see — as told by the 9-year-old recipient
The first box? That was the easiest to check, simply because Madelyn is a fighter and she has more get-up-and-go than a Tiger Woods stinger tee shot. But the second box? Oh, does she have a story.
And it’s so very, very cool. So let’s have her tell it, because 9-year-old girls and boys are actually the best storytellers. We’ll just ask some questions.
It’s Saturday, and they’re playing pro golf near where she plays. Dad bought Genesis Invitational tickets the night before, and they roam all over historic Riviera Country Club. Madelyn carries a white poster board.
All of the golf is inspiring. But these boys need to watch her. Madelyn’s mom, Alyson, and dad, Greg, a former teaching pro, have videos, and it’s as if you’re seeing something out of a how-to book.
Who’s your favorite player?
“Tiger and Phil. Adam Scott. I like Rory McIlroy. I like Jack Nicklaus, even though he’s not really playing anymore; he used to be really good. I like Collin Morikawa. I like Justin Thomas. I like Jordan Spieth. I like a lot.”
Why is Tiger your favorite?
“Because he’s the greatest. He’s kinda the GOAT. And I did a book report on him last year. I think it was a biography. I don’t really remember. It was like a year ago. It was pretty cool.”
How’s your game?
“I think if you would put it like 1 to 10, I would probably put it 10. I go basically every day. I’m having friends get into it, so that’s going to be more. And I already have a couple good friend golfers. And I play in a bunch of tournaments. I basically win a medal in every tournament. Most of the time I shoot 40 to 38. On nine holes.”
When did you start playing?
“I started playing — I had a club in my hand when I was 2. I started playing competitively a year and a half ago. And if you count them, 25 medals. And five of those tour championships glasses. And I’m the junior club champion at my club.”
Who do you model your game after?
“My caddie slash dad.”
What kind of player is he?
“He’s pretty good.”
Have you beat him?
“Yeah, I beat him a lot. I’m pretty good. He’s pretty good. He gives me a couple strokes at our home course, and it’s pretty fun. We play a buck a hole, and I usually get two bucks at the end, or he gets a buck. [Dad whispers: It’s always really close.] It’s always really close. I mean, I always beat him.”
On Saturday at Riviera, her white poster board is drawing some looks, but that’s kinda the point. For one, it’s very well done. The penmanship is immaculate. It’s colorful. It tells a message. At the top, in black marker, it says: “My bucket list.” Right below that, in red marker, it says: “Get heart transplant,” and next to that is a red checkmark. At 1, Madelyn had one. She’s had four heart surgeries overall.
How are you feeling today?
“I’m feeling excellent. It was probably — I basically don’t remember it all. I was going through some tough times when I was one and a half, almost 2. I don’t really remember it. I’m feeling excellent. I keep my heart healthy by going to the doctor every three months, and I take meds twice a day and I just try to keep my heart healthy. I sometimes exercise with my mom and dad and I eat really, really healthy.”
Dad goes deeper. He says it’s a miracle.
“The day we got her back, on March 5th, we couldn’t believe our eyes. All we had known was this little girl with no energy, and pale, and cold to touch, and all of a sudden, rosy cheeks and she was warm to touch, even though she was just lying there intubated and knocked out, we could see the difference. She woke up, came to, she had her first meal. They warned us that she would likely have to go home with the feeding tube in her nose because she didn’t learn how to eat. Well, they quickly pulled that out once they saw her scarf her first plate of food and ask for a second plate of food. And there’s been no turning back.”
Daughter, dad and grandpa make their way to 17 green. They grab a pair of seats, though everyone is standing. Madelyn is still holding her sign. In blue marker, the third line on it says: “Meet Tiger Woods.” And guess who’s walking up.
When you saw him on the 17th green, what were you thinking?
“He hit a drive into the crowd, and then he hit it on the green and bounced to the fringe. But then he putted it. He almost made the birdie. But it was a millimeter away from the cup. The crowd was going wild. The crowd was just like ohhhhhh. If he made that birdie, the crowd would have went crazy.”
Then he got close to his bag.
“So while he was putting, the caddie [Joe LaCava] looked over at my sign, and then when Tiger finished the hole, Tiger came close to his caddie, and the caddie whispered something to Tiger like, look behind you, I think there’s a girl with a really nice poster. And Tiger looked behind for a few seconds and stared at it and then got a Sharpie out from his pocket and started signing his glove. And then I was like, please come over, please come over, because I was like, dad, I think he’s signing something. And my dad was like, oh, that’s cool. And then he came over, and I was just all sweaty and shocked.”
Then he started to walk over.
“My heart started pounding. I was getting the chills. I’m like, is this a dream, is this real? This couldn’t be happening right now. I was just staring at him, and I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say.”
Then he gave you a signed glove and checked the box on your poster.
“I noticed he was just coming up to me with a pen and glove, and I was like, oh, um, I wonder what that pen and glove is for. And he handed me a glove and I saw it and it was with his signature on it. And then I looked down and he was writing something on the poster that I made. And I thought he was signing his name, but then after he left, I picked up the poster and I saw it and that he checked the box to “Meet Tiger Woods.” I’m still in a lot of shock. It was pretty cool.”
Then he gave you a hand slap when he went to 18.
“I thought it was pretty cool. I was still thinking about the glove and the poster. He double high-fived me. It was pretty cool.”
And Woods was off. Madelyn left soon afterward. Riviera was fun, but she herself had a tournament on Sunday.
There is a little more to share.
One, there is a fourth line to her poster. It reads, in green marker: “Play Augusta.”
How can we get that last box checked?
“Can you help me?”
If I could, I would. Maybe this story. What’s your plan?
“I’m going to try Drive, Pitch and Putt. I made it to the semifinals. It was pretty hard. It was in Arizona. It was a little challenging.”
“It’s basically the best golf course in the world. And Tiger Woods has played there and it’s his favorite course. Basically every PGA guy, that’s what they think is the best course. I really want to play it. That’s why it’s on my bucket list. I really want to go play there soon.”
Anything else you’d like to tell me?
“I just want to say Tiger, if you read this, I challenge you and Charlie to a match against my dad and I. We are both single-digit handicaps. …”
Her dad whispers: “Tell him what you told us the other night.”
“It makes me feel so happy that everyone is looking at the picture of me and Tiger. I just want to tell my story to tell kids who are waiting for a heart transplant or whatever surgery they need, just to make them not nervous and more comfortable.
“Just to have hope. Not be worried anymore.”