Before the world knew him as arguably the greatest golfer ever to live, Tiger Woods honed his game as a young amateur in Southern California.
Woods’ career accomplishments border on the absurd. Fourteen major championship titles, 79 wins on the PGA Tour, 30 on the European Tour, 18 World Golf Championship victories and dozens of accolades and awards tell the story of a child prodigy recognized.
Born in Cypress, California, Woods began playing in Southern California as a youth, playing in countless junior and amateur events all the way until college, when he took his talents to Stanford University.
Woods first became a star at age two when he and his father, Earl, appeared on The Mike Douglas Show in 1978. There, a young Tiger showed off his already-polished golf skills. From there, his career trajectory only went north.
While most of us spend our entire lives trying to break 80, young Tiger Woods knocked that off his “things to do” list at eight years old. Considering he shot 48 over 9-holes at the Cypress Navy course at three years of age, that’s not too surprising.
His next accomplishment came at age 12, when he broke 70 for the first time. Just before that at the age of 11, Woods beat his single-digit handicap father — and never lost to him again.
From the age of 13 on, Woods found himself playing frequently in major amateur tournaments and began setting records. His first experience came in 1989 at the Big I. He was paired with John Daly — and nearly beat him. According to his father’s book, “Training a Tiger: A Father’s Guide to Raising a Winner in Golf and in Life,” Daly had to birdie three of the last four holes just to beat the 13 year-old Woods.
In 1990 and 1991, Woods was named the Southern California Amateur of the year — at 14 and 15 years old. In 1991, he became the youngest ever winner of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship — a record that would stand until 2010. Eventually, Woods would end up winning three consecutive Junior Amateur titles — a record that still stands.
After such an extraordinary amateur career, it was easy to assume Woods would go onto greatness in college and the pros — which he did, winning his first major championship at the Masters in 1997.
After beginning his legendary career in Southern California, Woods added another page to the state’s illustrious golf history books again in 2008 — this time, in San Diego at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
On an injured knee, Woods battled not only the field and challenging course conditions synonymous with U.S. Open play, but severe pain in his left knee that on multiple occasions, made Woods keel over in pain.
On Sunday, Woods needed a birdie on the 18th hole to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate. As he’d done so many times before, Woods buried the putt, setting up what would become a classic duel that Monday.
The next day, the Tiger and Rocco battled it out on the South Course at Torrey Pines, swapping the lead four times on the afternoon and forcing a sudden-death playoff to decide the champion.
Woods made par to Mediate’s bogey, clinching his 14th major title and giving him his third career grand slam. To date, it’s Woods last major championship.
Today, Woods greatness transcends the sport of golf. He’s one of the single most recognizable figures on the planet today — and it all started on the golf courses of southern California.