Tiger Woods meets fan battling cancer thanks to power of social media

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Shane Caldwell meets Tiger Woods. (via screenshot)
Shane Caldwell meets Tiger Woods. (via screenshot)

AUGUSTA, Ga. — There’s no way, people told Jordan Miller, no way Tiger Woods is going to meet with your stepfather. It’s Masters week. He’s too busy. He’s Tiger freaking Woods. There’s just no way.

There was a way, and Jordan Miller found it.

Miller’s stepfather, Shane Caldwell of Columbia, S.C., suffers from Stage 4 lung cancer. A lifelong golf fan, Caldwell had always wanted to attend the Masters and meet Tiger Woods. A family friend secured two tickets for Thursday’s round, and that’s when Miller came up with an idea: why not connect Woods with her stepfather?

“What are the chances these two are going to be in the same place at the same time again?” she told Yahoo Sports Friday afternoon. “It was such a crazy idea that I decided to go for it, and I started harassing people until I got my way.”

Miller began with an impassioned plea last Saturday on Facebook: “My hope is that if we get enough attention from the right people, we may be able to surprise Shane with the opportunity to meet the golfer he idolizes. There aren’t enough words in the world to describe what it would mean to him or our family to make his dream come true.” But Facebook’s we-share-only-what-we-like algorithm being what it is, Miller’s post didn’t gain much traction.

So she turned to Twitter, which doesn’t limit what other users can see, and composed a tighter version of her Facebook plea:

“PLEASE RETWEET!!” she wrote. “I need help making my step dads dream of meeting @TigerWoods come true. He has stage 4 lung cancer and is very sick. This would mean the absolute world to him. Please help me make this happen for him.”

She tagged everyone from Woods himself to the PGA Tour in a barrage of more than 500 tweets – “I was going to make them acknowledge me or block me,” she said with a laugh Friday – and then the magic of social media took over. Someone who knew someone whose boyfriend had worked with Woods’ foundation saw the tweet. The sister of Woods’ caddy Joe LaCava saw the tweet. Finally – and most crucially – Woods’ girlfriend, Erica Herman, saw the tweet.

“By the end I think they were hearing about it from multiple different angles,” Miller said. “But it was Erica that made it really happen.”

Woods, like all celebrities, gets thousands of requests for his time and his goodwill each year. Most have to go unanswered. So what was the difference here? Miller credits Herman with making the real difference.

“Her and Tiger both lost their fathers to cancer,” Miller said. “So they probably understand a little more than most what it’s like to go through that.”

Wednesday evening, Miller gave her stepfather’s info to Herman and the Tiger Woods Foundation – Caldwell would be attending with his wife, Miller’s mother, and wearing pants with hundred-dollar bills on them and riding a blue scooter. Woods’ people instructed Miller to make sure Caldwell was on the driving range Thursday between 9:10 and 9:15 in the morning.

“I didn’t tell him, because I didn’t want to get his hopes up, and I needed him to sleep that night,” Miller said. “But when Erica came and stood next to him, he started to think something was up.”

Woods wrapped up his session, signed his glove with a Sharpie, and walked over to Caldwell. “Are you Shane?” he asked.

Woods handed over his glove – signed “Stay strong!! Tiger Woods” – and Caldwell replied, “Knock ‘em dead, Tiger!”

The plan was for Caldwell to meet with Woods after his round. But his health took a turn – he’d been in the hospital as recently as Monday, and had to get doctors to release him to come to the Masters – and he left the tournament after watching just two holes of golf.

On the plus side, he did manage to secure tickets for Sunday. And to hear Miller tell it, he’ll do everything he can to get back. “He’s a hardcore fighter,” she said. “He does not let anything get him down. He’s selfless. He just wants people to care and treat him normally.”

While another meeting with Woods would be great, Miller is realistic about the chances of that happening. Matter of fact, she has only one request for Caldwell’s return to the Masters: “I just want to go with him on Sunday,” she said. “I figure I earned that.”

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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