When Cheyenne Woods steps up to the tee, it's obvious golf is in her DNA. She's got the firm grip and a fluid swing, not to mention the almond-shaped eyes and wide smile of her uncle Tiger.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — When Cheyenne Woods steps up to the tee, it's obvious golf is in her DNA. She's got the firm grip and a fluid swing, not to mention the almond-shaped eyes and wide smile of her uncle Tiger.
With her Wake Forest University golf coach and teammates watching at a recent practice, the pressure was on the team's lone freshman. She wasn't too happy with a tee shot that landed near a tree, but pumped the next through some branches, over sand traps and onto the green.
"My mom and I would go to the park every night and hit balls because she didn't know what a driving range was," Woods said. "That's when I fell in love with it."
Like Tiger, Woods got her first set of clubs as a youngster from the late Earl Woods Sr., her grandfather and Tiger's father. He taught her how to swing, as he had years earlier with his now famous son, during spring break visits to his California home. He visited her home in Phoenix to watch her play events when she was younger.
"She did have a special relationship with her grandfather," said Susan Woods, Cheyenne's mother, who divorced Earl Woods Jr., Tiger's half-brother, when their daughter was 2.
Now the niece of the world's best golfer is playing competitively for the Demon Deacons, ranked 12th in the NCAA by Golfweek. Wooed by several universities, including Tulane and Tennessee, Woods said she chose Wake Forest because of its academics and golf program.
In her first tournament, the Duramed NCAA Fall Preview in Maryland, Woods and the Demon Deacons finished ninth in a 15-field team. Her three-round score of 225 was good for a tie for 26th out of 75 players.
"She's going to have an impact on the team right away," coach Dianne Dailey said.
Woods has played in charity matches with Tiger in support of his foundation and, though she doesn't speak with her uncle on a regular basis, said he inspires her.
"Just seeing him on TV and knowing that someone in my family is succeeding, it's just really motivating," she said.
So far, Woods said she hasn't felt extra pressure because of her last name. She prepares for matches the same way she did while playing high school golf at Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix, tuning her iPod to Usher to keep her mind level. She grew accustomed at Xavier to cameras at her matches and television interviews when she was finished.
Although 2,000 miles away from her Arizona home, she said she has been recognized as Tiger's niece when she introduces herself to people on campus and admits she's had quite a few unfamiliar "friend requests" on her Facebook and MySpace pages. But she said she's just trying to maintain a normal life.
"They don't make a big deal about it here," she said.
"But when I was in high school they did."
After spending her first week in college battling strep throat, Woods is still adjusting to the rigors of a full course load, daily athletic conditioning and practice — and not seeing her mom every day. She hasn't picked a major yet, though she's leaning toward psychology. She's still trying to figure out how to decorate her dorm room and what pictures she'll put up.
"I knew it was going to be kind of hard managing my time, getting used to college life and being busy with golf," Woods said. "So that's what I've expected."
Susan Woods said playing college golf will give Cheyenne opportunities to mature and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with being on a team.
Eventually, Cheyenne wants to play professionally.
"I'm looking forward to the travel and being on a collegiate team, and playing in the college-level tournaments — meeting new people, making new friends," Woods said. "It's kinda just like starting new."