Tiger Woods insisted he never thought about the social significance of what he was doing Tuesday. To him, it was just another golf course, another tournament, another victory. He's only 18 and his whole life is ahead of him.
But it was hard not to look back as Woods walked off that final green at Shoal Creek, a winner on the course that forever will be linked with golf's civil rights awakening. If there was any doubt before, this willowy, black teenager was proving once and for all this sport is not for whites only.
"I just went out and wanted to play well," the Stanford freshman said after his two-shot victory in the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate tournament, helping the Cardinal also win the team competition. "The significance to me is our team won, and I also happen to be the individual champion. That's what we came to do. We play to win."
Four years ago, Shoal Creek founder Hall Thompson sparked a national furor when he said his all-white country club wouldn't be pressured into accepting black members before the PGA Championship. Eventually, one black member was admitted, and the PGA was forced to re-evaluate membership policies of clubs around the nation.
Tuesday, while three black activists protested outside the front gate, Thompson spent a good part of the day trailing Woods around the course. Woods finished with a 25-foot birdie putt up a steep incline for a three-round, 10-under total of 206.
"You're a great player," Thompson said to Woods as he walked off No.
18 after he shot 5-under 67. "I'm proud of you. You're superb."
Entering the day three shots behind Auburn's Ian Steel, Woods overcame that deficit before they made the turn in front of the colonial-style clubhouse. But Stanford teammate William Yanagisawa made a charge, finishing at 208 with his second-straight 68 to put the pressure on Woods heading into the final two holes.
At the par-5 17th, Woods' distance off the tees allowed him to go for the green in two shots, and he wound up on the left fringe about 50 feet from the hole. His first putt had nearly perfect speed, rolling just past the cup about 2 feet away. His tap-in was dead-eye perfect.
At No. 18, a downhill par 4, Woods' second shot rolled into a valley on the steeply sloped green. "Go Tiger Woods!" someone yelled from a house nestled a few hundred yards away amid trees blazing with fall colors. When the putt snaked up the incline and dropped in the hole for another birdie, Woods raised his putter to those faraway fans.
He makes this bedeviling game sound so easy. When asked about trying to reach the green in two at No. 11, the other par 5 on the back nine, Woods seemed befuddled.
"Why not?" he asked. "It was in my range, so I decided to go for it."
Woods' 2-iron sailed over a creek and onto the green. The other two golfers in his group laid up short of the water.
Woods has played in two college tournaments with Stanford _ and won them both. Add him to the four returning seniors from the school's 1994 national championship team and it's hard to see anyone beating the Cardinal this season.
Even against a strong field at Shoal Creek that included the last four NCAA team champions, it was no contest. Stanford blew everyone away, finishing with an 18-under 846 _ 27 shots better than runner-up Auburn.
Florida finished 10th at 892. Freshman Josh McCumber tied for sixth at 3-under 216.