Slow the roll on Charlie Woods; golf's history isn't overly kind to the sons of greats

Will Charlie Woods be the next Tiger Woods? Dare we ask if he’ll ever win as many major championships as dear ol’ dad?

Charlie hits it a mile and employs an athletic and fundamentally sound swing, as well as many of his father’s on-course mannerisms.

But if you know golf and know its history, well, let’s just say Charlie will most likely win as many major championships as your ol’ man.

Maybe that’s a bit harsh. It’s not like second-generation golfers haven’t succeeded at the highest levels. Come on, it was just 130-some years ago that Willie Park Jr. won his second British Open and ran the combined total for father and son to six.

Charlie Woods unloads a tee shot while his father and Steve Stricker watch during last weekend's PNC Championship in Orlando.
Charlie Woods unloads a tee shot while his father and Steve Stricker watch during last weekend's PNC Championship in Orlando.

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That was just 15 years after another second-generation champ, Young Tom Morris, won his fourth.

So, yes, we’re saying there’s a chance.

Charlie Woods has drawn plenty of praise for his golf game over the past few years, most recently at last week’s annual father-son tournament (the PNC Championship in Orlando), where he and his dad tied for fifth in a field of 20.

This came a month after Charlie’s high school team (Benjamin) won the Class 1A state championship. Charlie tied for 26th individually with rounds of 78-76.

At 14, he’s a quality high school golfer. But at this stage there’s no way to know if that’ll eventually translate to a professional career in golf or, say, professional life as a lawyer or banker with a single-digit handicap and occasional use of the “Reserved for Club Champion” parking spot down at the club.

Jack Nicklaus is the standard by which Tiger Woods has long been measured. Of Jack’s four sons and one daughter, Gary was the best golfer. When he was just 16 and playing for the same Benjamin school Charlie Woods now attends, Sports Illustrated put him on the cover with the headline, “The Next Nicklaus.”

Given how prominent this magazine was back in the day, you think this put any pressure on young Gary?
Given how prominent this magazine was back in the day, you think this put any pressure on young Gary?

Not quite. Gary did reach the PGA Tour and stayed a few years, which is no small feat, but the closest he came to becoming the “Next Nicklaus” was a playoff loss to Phil Mickelson at the 2000 BellSouth Classic.

Just eight father-son combos have won PGA Tour tournaments: Julius and Guy Boros, Al and Brent Geiberger, Craig and Kevin Stadler, Bob and Kevin Tway, Joe Kirkwood Sr. and Jr., Jack Burke Sr. and Jr., Clayton and Vance Heafner, Jay and Bill Haas.

The number of second-generation tournament winners, eight, seems a bit low when you consider how many second- and even third-generation stars you see in other sports. One reason seems rather obvious. In team sports, where you get a Ken Griffey Jr. or a Christian McCaffrey, the son of a former pro, especially a former star, is likely to get more consideration and more reps at an early age, and therefore more opportunities to succeed.

Yes, genetics also help.

But in golf and the other individual sports, results tell the story. It doesn’t matter how much cachet your name carries. Sure, the name will help a fledgling pro get a sponsor’s invite into a tournament field here and there, and one of those opportunities might trigger a breakthrough. But most likely, if the professional quality is there, you’re not leaning on sponsor invites very long.

Charlie Woods is obviously set up to go as far as his talent and desire allows — the best equipment, access to the best practice facilities and courses, and a pretty fair instructor across the dinner table.

That instructor defied a lot of odds along the way and did many things never considered likely, and some things never thought possible. Odds and history, however, also pack a formidable punch.

The Picks

Byrum Brown
Byrum Brown

A lot of folks will get their first look at USF quarterback Byrum Brown in tonight’s Boca Raton Bowl against Syracuse — assuming the fascinating Rams-Saints matchup doesn’t get your undivided attention.

The freshman QB and North Carolina native got plenty of recruiting attention in high school, but not exactly from the bluebloods. USF won his commitment over the likes of App State, Georgia State, Furman and several HBCUs.

Then he went to Tampa and blossomed under first-year coach Alex Golesh and his high-octane offensive system — topped 3,000 yards passing and 700 rushing.

Now guess what. That’s right, the transfer portal’s maitre d’ has cracked the front door, glanced Byrum’s way, and has been clearing his throat for a couple weeks now.

The portal opened for business Dec. 4 and remains open until Jan. 2. That leaves enough time, let’s say, for a player at a high-profile position to light up a bowl game and start attracting ever-increasing lures from the NIL caretakers on various campuses.

It’s enough to get a USF fan pulling for three interceptions, four sacks and a lopsided loss. That’s unlikely, but still — Orange 30, Bulls 23.

◼ Elsewhere in the coming week of bowl games: UCF over Georgia Tech (Gasparilla); Troy beats Duke (Birmingham); Air Force by 6 over James Madison (Armed Forces); Utah beats Northwestern (Vegas); Bowling Green by 10 over Minnesota (Quick Lane); Tulane beats Virginia Tech (Military); West Virginia over North Carolina (Duke’s Mayo); Louisville by 17 over USC (Holiday); and Oklahoma State big over portal-heavy Texas A&M (Texas Bowl).

BTW: Back to those second-generation golfers and, particularly, those who followed the biggest footsteps.

Of the children from the famed Big Three — Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus — only Gary Nicklaus played professionally for any real length of time.

Arnie had two daughters who didn’t play competitive golf (grandson Sam Saunders plugged away for many years, however). Gary’s son Wayne gave it a run, but let’s just say he never got good footing — 17 PGA Tour starts, 17 missed cuts.

In 123 PGA Tour starts, Gary Nicklaus survived just 33 cuts. But compared to Wayne Player, Gary was, you know, a regular Jack Nicklaus. Finally!

Reach Ken Willis at

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Charlie Woods the next Tiger Woods? Golf history says probably not