Tiger Woods’ Masters return a reminder of the Black golf fandom he ignited — Andscape

For a lot of Tiger Woods’ historic run from 1996 to 2013, when he received 79 instances — together with 14 majors — two Black males had been an everyday presence in his gallery: Paul Shannon, a retired FBI agent, and Johnnie Williams, a retired postal employee.

Shannon had talked Williams into retiring in order that they may comply with Woods across the tour. Crisscrossing the nation from California to Georgia, the pair put greater than 260,000 miles on Shannon’s Lincoln City Automobile.

Each effectively over 6 toes tall and at all times dressed immaculately in well-starched golf attire, they had been emblematic of the widespread love and help that Woods obtained from African Individuals, a lot of whom had solely come to the sport due to his phenomenal success.

Woods knew Shannon and Williams as a result of they volunteered at his youth clinics. On the golf course, they had been his largest cheerleaders. One wanted solely to observe the moods and expressions of those males to know the way effectively Woods was taking part in.

“Every time Tiger hit an excellent shot,” Shannon instructed Andscape, “I might give him a thumbs-up. Johnnie and I at all times tried to be there for him. We virtually felt prefer it was our responsibility.”

The PGA Tour touts its followers because the “most respected viewers in sport.” Based on the tour, its followers “earn extra, spend extra and provides greater than different main sports activities.” Its followers are predominantly white and prosperous, and the primary faces in galleries at tournaments. But Williams, who died in 2020, and Shannon characterize a section of golf fandom that’s Black and unabashedly pro-Tiger.

Shannon was glued to his tv Tuesday morning as Woods stated he meant to play within the Masters for the primary time since his single-car rollover crash in February 2021, the place he sustained main leg accidents that threatened to finish his taking part in profession.

When Woods comes again to Augusta for the Masters, it’s a reminder of how he ignited a Tiger fandom within the Black group throughout his historic win right here on the 1997 Masters.

As a younger golf reporter within the early 2000s for Sports activities Illustrated, I bear in mind how Shannon and Williams moved by means of the Woods galleries like two lengthy swish Black figures from an Ernie Barnes portray. They appeared as in the event that they had been main a cost on a battlefield — maneuvering their approach throughout the course to get the perfect view of their favourite participant.

“Tiger was a hero to old-school Black golfers like Paul and Johnnie,” stated Pete McDaniel, a pioneering Black golf author and the co-author with Woods’ father, Earl, of Coaching a Tiger: A Father’s Information to Elevating a Winner in Each Golf and Life. “They lived and died with Tiger’s each shot as a result of for males of their technology, who had skilled the unlevel taking part in subject in each enviornment on this nation, he was their subject leveler in golf.”

When McDaniel joined Golf World journal within the early Nineties, there was a smattering of African Individuals at golf tournaments. At Woods’ first Masters when he was an newbie, there was curiosity about this younger phenom who introduced extra Black followers to this main championship, which at all times had an attract within the Black group due to the presence of the Black caddies and employees on the membership.

In 1975, Lee Elder had a robust Black following of patrons at Augusta when he grew to become the primary Black golfer to play within the event, however nothing like what would come when Woods received in 1997.

“Individuals of colour started to dominate Tiger’s galleries,” McDaniel stated of this era. “His galleries grew to become so much youthful with the golf fanatics who needed to be like Tiger.”

Woods was additionally the supply of one other main shift in golf fandom, in keeping with McDaniel.

“Even these white individuals who had been steeped in segregation and racism suddenly grew to become large followers,” he stated. “They didn’t see him as being Black. They noticed him as colorless, which was a phenomena in its personal proper.”

In Black golf fandom, Woods was the supply of the power that drove Shannon and Williams to stroll all these miles on dangerous knees throughout hilly golf programs. At 84, Shannon not follows Woods across the nation in his Lincoln City Automobile. Now he largely follows the sport by means of televised event protection.

This week he will likely be giving the thumbs-up to Woods as he makes an attempt to navigate Augusta Nationwide’s hilly terrain with some unsure legs. As at all times, Woods will entice the most important crowds, and these patrons, as Augusta calls them, will likely be of all races. Shannon will likely be considering of all these instances with Johnnie when Woods was at his perfect, and when being a fan meant racial satisfaction and development.

Farrell Evans has written in regards to the intersection of golf and race for Sports activities Illustrated, Golf Journal, ESPN.COM, Bleacher Report and The Nationwide. He’s the co-host with PGA Tour veteran Bo Van Pelt of Each Sides of the Ball, a podcast that raises conversations about golf, tradition and all the pieces in between.

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