Tiger Woods, along with a number of other top-ranked golfers, will be coming to Washington in June, bringing his annual golf tournament, the AT&T National, back to Congressional Country Club after a two-year hiatus. The tournament benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. Fans of Woods, who have been watching his every swing and putt as he gradually rebuilds his career, are probably thinking this would be the right place and time to try to reclaim his legend as the world’s top golfer–if not sooner. There are six major tournaments between now and the National, including the US Open, which presents a lot of opportunity.
At the moment, Woods is ranked eighth worldwide. First is Rory McIlroy, who won here in Washington last year when Congressional hosted the US Open. Who wouldn’t want to see a Woods-McIlroy showdown in Potomac in June? Stephen Washington, one of the area’s top young golfers, would like to see it, and he’ll be rooting for Woods. “I don’t like McIllroy,” he said emphatically.
We met Washington and his mother, Jovanni Washington, Tuesday evening at a PGA event for the First Tee, a 12-year-old nonprofit that brings the sport and support to Washington-area public schools, including many female and minority students. The goal is to build character through sport, and Washington, who is a beneficiary of First Tee, has carried along the message by helping with golf clinics and a tournament at his own school, Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, where he’s a senior. It was a pleasure to watch his graceful, precise swing at a tee setup at the party, which was held on the sunny and breezy rooftop of 101 Constitution Avenue, overlooking the Capitol and the Mall. Note: There was a net to catch the balls, rather than have them fly through the window of a nearby office.
Also at the party was Greg McLaughlin, president of the Tiger Woods Foundation, who has been associated with Woods since they first met in Orange County, California, when the phenom was only 15 years old. McLaughlin played a role in Woods becoming the youngest ever US Junior American champion, and a friendship began. Without betraying any of Woods’s well-guarded privacy, when asked if the pro’s children are showing any interest in golf, he said his two-year-old daughter has no interest but his three-year-old son is swinging a club around with enthusiasm. Woods himself was already playing courses at age three.
McLaughlin said the goals of the Tiger Woods Foundation intersect with the programs of the First Tee, and that Woods spends as much time as possible–at least 40 days–working with minority and other underserved children, to help them learn how to get ahead in life through golf.
The other guests included a mix of Senate and House members, among them Republican senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who spoke on behalf of the First Tee program; and Democratic representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, who got some extra attention for his good-looking shoes. Washingtonian senior writer and occasional fashion critic Shane Harris tweeted that Richmond “may have the best shoes in Congress.” (FYI: They are Air Jasper Perf Oxfords from Cole Haan.) Richmond stood with former Redskin and current sportswriter Ken Harvey and Kathryn Rand of FedEx, who is president of First Tee. Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour, and Allen Wronowski, president of PGA of America, were also there, along with Tony Russo of T-Mobile, whom Golf Digest ranks as Washington’s number-one golfer. But would he take a swing at the rooftop tee? Nope. Maybe he’s saving himself to go up against Woods in the Pro-Am round that begins the tournament at Congressional.