Why Tiger Woods visited this muni days after winning the Tiger Slam
On Sunday evening, TNT showed us Tiger Woods’ home course: Medalist Golf Club. Medalist is notably a “players’ club,” and serves as home base for some of the best golfers on the PGA Tour. It’s also among the most private courses in South Florida.
As The Match II concluded, Golf Channel kicked off the premiere of “Tiger Slam,” its documentary reliving Woods’ unparalleled stretch of dominance from 2000-2001, when he won all four major championships consecutively. Those wins came at an interesting mix of courses: Pebble Beach in California, a shockingly beautiful and notably pricy public course. St. Andrews in Scotland, the home of golf, owned by local authorities and open to all. Valhalla in Louisville, a private country club — gorgeous in the spring and plenty hot by the time the PGA Championship rolled around. And Augusta National, which requires no further explanation here.
It was a busy day for Tiger on TV, and it showcased an interesting range of courses, five of them, each extremely relevant to the annals of modern golf history. But let’s add one to the mix: El Dorado Park Golf Course.
On April 8, 2001, Woods won the Masters. The following Saturday he showed up to a muni in Long Beach, Calif. to yuk it up with 2,500 spectators. Junior golfers were the target, but they were hardly the only interested parties in attendance. His mother Kultida was there. His father Earl was, too. So were two of Woods’ junior coaches, Rudy Duran and John Anselmo, who’d taught Woods at nearby courses. This was the Tiger Woods Foundation Junior Golf Clinic and Exhibition, meant to make golf more accessible to Long Beach-area kids.
The L.A. Times’ Mike Penner has a fun writeup from the day. He covers how the mayor of Long Beach, Beverly O’Neill, kept calling her featured guest “Tiger Wood.” How the clinic fielded 15 camera crews and over 100 media credentials. How Woods walked down the range, looking at one swing after another, shaking nervous hands and offering calming advice. How he vocalized his hope that golf would continue to welcome kids that looked like him.
“I want everyone to have access to this game,” he said, as reported by the Times. “Whoever wants to play should be able to play. That wasn’t always the case in this game. Minorities have been shunned away in this sport, unfortunately, in the past, but that shouldn’t be right, and it isn’t right. And right now, we’re trying to change that process.”
There’s a YouTube video from that day, too — 10 minutes of Woods hitting range balls, silky-smooth. It’s calming to watch. You’ll learn something if you do. He was a power player at the time, but he talks about balance and about swinging within himself. About staying between his two feet. Woods hits his 8-iron 156 yards, he says. His 3-wood carries 255 in the air. It’s interesting that 19 years later, neither of those numbers would turn heads.
It’s also very fun watching Woods discuss the now-mythological stinger.
“Now, if I feel a little nervous, I just wanna get the ball in play, kinda punch it out there,” Woods says as he rips a low iron out into the range. “I hit that shot. Doesn’t go quite as far, but it sure is straight.”
In 2020, El Dorado Park’s golf course is alive and well. Area residents play the course for between $15 (“super twilight” rate) and $40 (weekends). Juniors can play for $6 during the week and $12 on weekends. Public golf — it’s where it’s at! The course continues to serve the same purpose it did when Woods came to town.
There’s a connection to the professional game, too: El Dorado plays host to the Long Beach Open, a highly-competitive four-round event that draws some of the best aspiring pros from California and beyond. In 2019, Taylor Montgomery shot 24-under (65-67-64-68) to claim the $33,000 first-place check. He’s now on the Korn Ferry Tour. PGA Tour pro Martin Trainer, who finished runner-up in 2015, calls the tournament “the ultimate in casual professional golf.” GOLF Top 100 teacher Dana Dahlquist calls the course home. So do any number of aspiring players.
In short, El Dorado is a reminder of what we love about golf. It’s a community hub, cheap and accessible for kids, it can host a heck of a golf tournament and it has Tiger Woods’ stamp of approval. In all, sounds like a good place to go the week after Augusta National.
This is part of our Muni Monday series, spotlighting stories from the world of city- and county-owned golf courses around the world. Got a muni story that needs telling? Send tips to Dylan Dethier or to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow Muni Mondays on Instagram.