At one time, Tiger Woods felt a strong enough desire to follow in his father's footsteps to consider trading in his golf clubs for combat gear.
Woods came close to leaving the PGA Tour behind and becoming a Navy SEAL according to "Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods," a book written by his ex-swing coach Hank Haney that will be released in March. In an excerpt of the book posted online, Haney recounts how Woods' fascination with the military prompted his desire to enlist in the Navy and begin SEAL training.
His interest seemed to be sparked by a visit to Fort Bragg, a military base in North Carolina, in 2004. Woods spent four days there taking part in military training while he hosted a golf clinic. Haney recounts how Woods participated in a wide range of drills and military exercises. His regimen, Haney wrote, included two tandem parachute jumps, hand-to-hand combat exercises, four-mile runs while wearing combat boots, and drills inside a wind tunnel.
Woods' fascination with the military partially grew out of the fact his late father Earl served in the military in his younger days. Earl Woods served two tours of duty in Vietnam and retired from the army as a lieutenant colonel.
Desires to join a SEAL team may have also been an outgrowth of the pressures Woods felt while pursuing the record of 18 major victories held by Jack Nicklaus. Haney noted the pressure got to Woods so badly by 2007 that it taxed him mentally at every major tournament and coaching him grew into a burden.
It is strange to think Woods could right now be tracking down terrorists half a world away instead of trying to mount a comeback on the PGA Tour if he had followed through on his SEAL dreams. What would he have been like operating as a Navy SEAL? How would he have reacted to the pressures of a covert operation--like the one that took down Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden?
I don't think Woods would have fit in well as a Navy SEAL. Part of the problem lies in the fact that SEAL teams operate in secrecy. They are trained to undertake covert operations and dangerous missions. Woods is one of a handful of athletes who enjoys worldwide fame. He is more associated with pro golf than any other athlete. It would be difficult for him to remain anonymous and blend in while in enemy territory.
For that reason, Woods would present a major security risk on any SEAL mission. He would draw unwanted attention that could lead to the capture or deaths of many soldiers. I realize that some wars--such as World War II --featured famous athletes and actors serving in combat. In the Internet age, however, celebrity soldiers can become targets for terrorist reprisals, putting them and countless others around them at risk. That is one reason why the identities of the members of the SEAL team that captured bin Laden were never made public.
Sticking to golf is the best career decision Tiger Woods could have made.
John Coon enjoys getting in a round from time to time in the Salt Lake City area when he is not covering golf as a freelance sports reporter.
- Tiger Woods
- Navy SEAL
- Hank Haney