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Tiger Woods protecting Charlie from questions, unruly fans shows he’s a dad first

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The swing and follow-through happened around 8 a.m. ET Thursday morning at a pre-qualifying event in Florida. The PGA Tour quickly captured it.

It was a nice swing, one we have seen before. How could we miss it?

It was Charlie Woods’ first attempt at qualifying for a tour event. Users on social media sensed the moment, too, but they weren’t nearly as nostalgic.

“You know you guys have an actual event starting today,” came the first comment on X, formerly Twitter.

“Leave the kid alone,” said pro tennis star and golf aficionado Mardy Fish.

Some wondered why Woods wasn’t in school. Others wanted to know where they could watch him on television. Some even used profanity, stated or implied, in an effort to tamp down the expectations, or even to take a cheap shot at Woods.

Back the efff off

Garbage ass swing and score …

Kid is trash!!

Would anyone say that about your child if he or she had won the high school golf state championship?

Tiger Woods’ son is 15. He wound up shooting a 16-over-86, finishing 64th in the field. He won’t advance to Monday’s open qualifier and, mercifully for now, his first event on the PGA Tour will have to wait.

If you are a parent, and you have attached expectations to your kid’s sporting achievements, you can exhale. Your son or daughter, perhaps no one’s son or daughter, is facing the pressure to succeed — or to fail — the way Charlie Woods is.

CHARLIE WOODS!!

A chip-in birdie for Team Woods @PNCChampionship pic.twitter.com/0nh0KdP0JV

— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 17, 2023

He has shown us he is a strong player, playing on the winning state championship team in Florida and putting up highlight-reel shots playing alongside his father in the PNC Championship.

And yet, it may not ever be good enough for us.

Forget unrealistic expectations. These expectations are impossible.

They can serve as a reminder for all sports parents of how lucky we are. We have the opportunity to see our kids play every week, sometimes every day, without the world watching his or her every move.

If Charlie Woods was your kid, and you knew the pressure he was facing, would you be critical of him? Would you tell him the things he might do differently in all those games you watch? Or would you cherish every moment you had to watch him proudly following in your enormous shadow?

The best example we can set for our kids isn’t necessarily in doing what we’re best at. It’s how we act and behave and carry ourselves on a daily basis. It’s in letting our kids be kids as long as they can, no matter how far their careers take them. And it’s laying off of them when they don’t play up to our expectations.

Yes, this is Tiger Woods, winner of 15 major championships and 82 PGA Tour events. But as far as being a dad, he seems a lot like any of us in looking out for his son.

“I just don’t like the fact that he stares at his phone all the time,’’ Tiger Woods said in December, according to Sports Illustrated. “Put your phone away and just look around. That’s one of the things that I think all parents struggle with is most kids don’t look up anymore. Everyone is looking down.

Charlie Woods hits a shot from behind the green during pre-qualifying for the 2024 Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches at Lost Lake Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Florida. (Photo: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via via AP Images)

“Look around you, the world is so beautiful around you, just look up. But everyone is staring into a screen, and that’s how people view life. It drives me nuts at times because he’s always looking down and there’s so many things around you that are so beautiful at the same time.”

When you observe the relationship, even in the snippets of it we get to see in public, you see that they are two exceptional golfers but a father and a son first.

Woods kept his son away from interviews at the PNC Championship, but Charlie stopped at the turn to answer questions from Will McGee, the 12-year-old son of two other golfers, Mike McGee and Annika Sorenstam.

“My mom was wondering, because she gives me advice on my swing but I don’t listen often. … Do you listen to your dad on swing tips?” Will asked.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” Charlie responded. “I mean, when I get desperate, yeah.”

One thing that Charlie Woods and Will McGee have in common … reluctantly taking advice from @TigerWoods & @ANNIKA59

Listen to our coverage of the @PNCchampionship all weekend long: https://t.co/aCgwlCDauJ pic.twitter.com/J0GqIjTjbe

— SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio (@SiriusXMPGATOUR) December 15, 2023

Woods hasn’t put any external pressure on Charlie or his older sister, Sam, who plays soccer. Sam also caddied for her dad and brother at the PNC Championship.

“It couldn’t have been any more special for all of us,” Tiger said. “For me to have both my kids inside the ropes like this and participating and playing, and being part of the game of golf like this, it couldn’t have been more special for me.”

“I drove the ball really good today. I didn’t miss a fairway,” Charlie said at the same event. “I didn’t miss a fairway and we still managed to shoot eight under. We just suck at putting.”

His father, listening thoughtfully, cracked a smile.

“That summed it up right there,” he said.

There could be a moment in Charlie Woods’ future when he plays and even succeeds on the PGA Tour. There will be a day when his career playing the sport ends. Your child will have that moment someday, too.

The end came in 1972 for Yogi Berra’s oldest son, Larry, who had a dream of playing major league baseball. It was a dream that was independent of his father’s decorated career until he approached Whitey Herzog, the director of minor league development for the New York Mets.

Larry Berra told Herzog if he wasn’t meeting the team’s standards, he needed to let him go. His request was granted. Everyone thought he got released anyway.

He was dealing with injuries in the minor leagues but, like with Charlie Woods, he has always dealt with that shadow.

“When I was playing in the Appalachian League, we went to one town, and I was in the on-deck circle,” Larry Berra told author Mark Braff for the book “Sons of Baseball.” “Some guy kept yelling at me, saying, ‘You’re not as good as your old man.’ And I turned around and I said, ‘Listen, if I was as good as my father, I wouldn’t have to listen to you and I wouldn’t be in this little town of yours.’ And I got yelled at by my coach.”

Yogi Berra, like many former major league baseball players, didn’t put pressure on his son to follow in his footsteps. Those expectations came by themselves.

We have to resist, no matter how alike the swings of Tiger and his son are, to put them on Charlie Woods.

We wouldn’t do it to our own kid, would we?

Ask yourself that question the next time you drop your son or daughter off at a tryout for a travel team, and no one is watching.

Steve Borelli, aka Coach Steve, has been an editor and writer with USA TODAY since 1999. He spent 10 years coaching his two sons’ baseball and basketball teams. He and his wife, Colleen, are now loving life as sports parents for a high schooler and middle schooler.