PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — What is a man who has poured every fiber of his being into the pursuit of golfing excellence to fill his time when his body makes regimented practice impossible? He is doubling down on his commitment to his foundation, which Tiger Woods has repeatedly said is as important to him as the gear that fills his trophy cabinet.
At last year’s Genesis Invitational, Woods’ TGR Foundation celebrated the milestone of reaching two million children through its in-person and online offerings. It’s an extraordinary number, but Woods and Gordon Neale, the foundation’s president and CEO, are united in the belief that reaching children alone is not enough.
“The words Tiger used were ‘growth with impact’, and I immediately wrote it down,” Neale says. “The goal isn’t just to reach millions for the sake of millinos – it’s to go deep and be truly transformative in the lives of these children, so that they want to continue the cycle to give back and make a difference in their communities.”
To that end, and as the world slowly emerges from the pandemic, TGR is doubling down on its in-person connections. In addition to the Learning Lab in Anaheim, TGR has partnered with the United States Tennis Association and the Los Angeles Galaxy to develop the Carol Kimmelman Athletic and Academic Campus in Carson, an 80-acre recreation facility that will house tennis courts. tennis courts, soccer fields and a youth-focused learning centre. The foundation has similar projects in different markets across the country, guided by Neale and Woods’ belief that “something is lost when everything is virtual.”
The Earl Woods Scholar program serves as a model for the type of different TGR hopes to create in life, not just in children, but throughout their career paths. It began after Earl passed away in 2006 to honor the memory and spirit of Tiger’s father and mentor. Scholars accepted into the program are high-achieving high school students who demonstrate financial need, demonstrate a commitment to community service, and intend to pursue higher education. But that’s the furthest thing from a scholarship deal here; each student is paired with an individual mentor who guides them through the college process and beyond. Ninety percent of Earl Woods Scholars are first-generation students, and they have a 98% graduation rate.
The return of fans to Riviera this week after a Genesis 2021 without spectators means the return of the Earl Woods scholars, who serve as honorary starters during tournament week. One such scholar is James “Jimmy” Green, who was born in Cincinnati but moved to military bases on the East Coast after his mother remarried a Marine. Green was a student at Quantico Middle High School and was looking for a way to fund his tuition at George Mason University when TGR learned of his situation through a partnership with a military outreach program. Earl Woods was a Green Beret in the military, and Woods’ reverence for the armed forces and law enforcement is well documented.
Green was paired with Greg Van Ordon, who served in the military and continues to serve in a logistics-focused civilian position. Through his conversations with a teacher in George Mason and Van Ordon, Green decided to pursue a career in diplomacy rather than combat. He is now a political officer in the US State Department’s Foreign Service and is learning Turkish in anticipation of moving to Cyprus next year for his first deployment.
“Greg and I aren’t just always in touch, I live in his house!” says Green, a spirited 27-year-old with an enthusiasm for philanthropy. Green hires (and gets a hell of a deal) from his mentor in Fairfax, Virginia.
“I’m more grateful than ever to have been a part of this program and one day I hope to do well enough to be able to return to the Midwest and make a difference in the lives of children. I came across this amazing network and have been riding the wave ever since, and it really makes me want to be a mentor for kids. Color, credo, none of that matters. I just want kids who have been in difficult environments to be as successful. Knowing that there are people who want to help.
Woods himself is part of this network. Green had the opportunity to meet the 15-time major champion in a boardroom a few years ago. Green had just completed a service trip to Jamaica and was told he would have about 15 minutes to chat with the legend.
“We were in there for an hour,” Green says. “I thought to myself, do you have a place to go? He couldn’t have been nicer or more engaged. We talked about the military, baseball, Jamaica, it was just amazing.
Green says some of his best friends are other Earl Woods scholars he’s met through the program, who are pursuing a wide range of career opportunities, from entrepreneurship to business to science. and all the rest.
“There are no words to express how much this program has changed my life.”