Tiger Woods and Golf

By Shelley GollustThe most popular athlete in the United States is a young man named Tiger Woods. But he does not play basketball or football or baseball. He plays golf. He will be playing in the one hundredth United States Open Championship this week. I'm Shirley Griffith.And I'm Steve Ember. The sport of golf is our report today on the VOA Special English program This is America.

()Experts say Tiger Woods is one of the world's most famous sports' stars. He is only twenty-four years old. But he has been playing golf since he was a very young child. His father began teaching him how to play when he was only two years old. Tiger Woods won many championships as a child. He became a professional golfer in Nineteen-Ninety-Six.

The next year, Tiger Woods became the first African-American golfer to win the Masters Tournament. It is one of the most important competitions in golf. Experts said it was one of the best performances in the history of professional golf.Last year, Tiger Woods became the first golfer in more than twenty years to win eight professional golf competitions in one year. He earned more than six-million dollars in prize money, the most ever won in one season. During his four years as a professional golfer, he has earned more than any other golfer in history. He has earned more than fifteen-million dollars. Tiger Woods earns even more money doing advertisements to help sell sports products. He has a five-year agreement with the Nike company worth forty-million dollars.Tiger's real name is Eldrick. His father, Earl Woods, is an African American. His mother, Kultida Woods, is a native of Thailand. Sports experts say Tiger Woods is mainly responsible for an increase in the popularity of golf in the United States. They say more people are playing and watching golf because of the young golf star. And they say the game is becoming popular with new groups of people. In the past, most of the people who played golf were older, white businessmen. Now it is becoming popular with younger people and with members of minority and ethnic groups.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))Golf is an outdoor sport in which a player hits a small hard ball over a long distance. It is played on a large area of land called a golf course. The course is divided into eighteen areas, called holes, of different lengths and difficulty. Players must hit the ball into a small cup in the ground at the end of each of the eighteen holes.

An eighteen-hole golf course covers about sixty hectares. It is usually at least six-thousand meters from the beginning of the first hole to the end of the eighteenth. The player who hits the ball the fewest number of times while playing the eighteen holes is the winner.

Players hit the ball with one of several kinds of golf clubs. The clubs are long thin sticks with different shapes at the end where the ball is hit. The kind of club used depends on the distance of the ball from the hole.

More than twenty-five million Americans play golf. In recent years, the number of female golfers has increased as have the number of African American golfers. Men, women and children play golf as an individual or team sport. Young people play golf in teams in high school or college. People play for fun, to get fresh air and exercise. Many famous Americans love to play golf. President Clinton is one of them.

Yet golf is not a sport for everyone. It requires a lot of skill. A golfer must have the power to be able to hit the ball a long distance to get it to the smooth green area that surrounds each hole. Then the golfer must be able to hit the ball carefully for a short distance to get it into the hole. It takes a great deal of time to play the complete eighteen holes. So sometimes people play a shorter game of only nine holes.Golf costs more money to play than many other sports. A player must have a set of golf clubs and golf balls. And it can cost a lot to use a golf course.

The United States has more than sixteen-thousand golf courses. About thirty percent are private courses. They are open only to people who pay a large amount of money every year to be members. About seventy percent of American golf courses are open to the public. People pay to play golf for a day.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))Experts say that the modern game of golf began in Scotland. The first organized golf group began in Seventeen-Forty-Four in Edinburgh. It established the first written rules of the game. The popularity of golf spread from Scotland and England to parts of the British Commonwealth, including India and Canada.

Experts say people may have played golf in the United States as early as the Seventeen-Hundreds. In Eighteen-Ninety-Four, the Amateur Golf Association of the United States was established. It served as the governing body for golf in the United States. It is now known as the United States Golf Association.In Nineteen-Sixteen, some American golfers formed the Professional Golfers Association, or P-G-A. Professional golfers earn money from playing golf. Some earn the money by winning competitions. Others teach golf.

Many professional golfers became famous in the early years of the sport. They included Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. In later years, the top male American players included Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Lee Trevino. Some of the top female golf players included Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Kathy Whitworth and Nancy Lopez.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))This year, the P-G-A tour includes forty-nine golf competitions in the United States, Scotland, Canada, Spain and Argentina. P-G-A tour golfers travel for most of the year to play in many of these competitions. Among them are the four major golf competitions for men. They are the Masters Tournament, the United States Open, the British Open and the P-G-A Championship. Nobody has ever won all four competitions in the same year. There also are two major golf competitions for women.

Officials say half of the money awarded at each P-G-A tour competition comes from companies or local organizations. The other half comes from the money the P-G-A tour earns when it sells broadcast rights to its events.The Masters Tournament was played in April in Augusta, Georgia. Vijay Singh from Fiji, won it. Tiger Woods finished in fourth place.

This week, the second major golf competition of the season will be held. It is the U-S Open Championship. It will be played in Pebble Beach, California. The Pebble Beach golf course is one of the most beautiful in the world. It borders the Pacific Ocean. This year's competition is the one-hundredth time the U-S Open has been played.About one-hundred-fifty top golfers in the world will complete in the final part of the U-S Open, June fifteen through June eighteenth. They include Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus of the United States, Ernie Els of South Africa, Greg Norman of Australia and Vijay Singh of Fiji. Tiger Woods has never won a U-S Open championship. Many experts believe he will win this year. The popular American golfer Payne Stewart won the U-S Open championship last year. But he was killed in an airplane crash in October.

Many people will be watching the U-S Open golf tournament in Pebble Beach. Millions of others will watch it on television. Now they can watch it twenty-four hours a day on a special cable television station called The Golf Channel. It is the only twenty-four hour cable television channel that broadcasts just one sport.A new golf magazine was published last month for the first time. It is called "Maximum Golf." Michael Caruso is the editor of the new magazine. He says "Maximum Golf" is for people who believe golf is more fun and more exciting than it ever has been.

Mr. Caruso says there is one thing that makes golf different from other sports. People who play the sport for fun can identify with the top professional golfers. They can play on some of the same golf courses as the people they watch playing on television.

Mr. Caruso also says many different kinds of people are now playing golf. More and more golf courses are open to everyone. He says the biggest excitement has come from the P-G-A Tour with its young stars representing many ethnic groups. Many people agree that this is an exciting time in the history of American golf.

This program was written Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Shirley Griffith.And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program This is America.