Originally created 02/11/06

Woods' center draws praise from Clinton



ANAHEIM, Calif. - Tiger Woods didn't have to hit a spectacular shot or pump his fist to find satisfaction. Instead, he gripped an oversized pair of scissors and cut the ribbon to officially open his $25 million learning center Friday aimed at helping children find their way.

"This is by far the greatest thing that has ever happened to me," said Woods, a winner of 57 tournaments worldwide and 10 major championships, including four Masters Tournaments. "This is bigger than golf. This is bigger than anything I've done on the golf course. Because we will be able to shape lives."

Woods was joined by former President Clinton and Maria Shriver, the wife of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with dozens of the estimated 5,000 children who will pass through the doors of the Tiger Woods Learning Center by the end of the year.

The 35,000-square-foot facility is located next to the H.G. "Dad" Miller Golf Course, where Woods played when he was in high school. Kids who apply by writing letters come to the center after school for interactive programs in science, math and technology.

"I'm impressed Tiger Woods decided to do this when he was 30 instead of when he was 60," Clinton said.

The only sad note to a day of brilliant sunshine was the absence of his father, Earl Woods, who is battling cancer and could not leave his home a short drive away.

Woods nearly broke down when he mentioned the support of his father, just as he did last April when he won the Masters.

"I talked to him last night," Woods said. "He kept telling me how proud he was of what I was able to do, and proud of me for thinking of this. It's hard on all of us."

The Tiger Woods Foundation was created shortly after Woods turned pro, and although his focus immediately turned to children, he did not have a clear vision of what to do. Woods primarily staged junior golf clinics around the country, later assembling selected kids to attend a clinic in Orlando, Fla. He referred to it as a "circus act," breezing in and out of town and leaving kids little more than memories.

That changed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I felt we weren't doing enough," Woods said.

That's when he thought of the idea of a learning center, and it took 3 years from the first meeting with Orange County officials to reach the grand opening.

Woods donated the first $5 million to the project, along with earnings from his Target World Challenge at the end of the season. He was involved in starting a new PGA Tour event, the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston, which gives its net proceeds to the Tiger Woods Foundation.

And he relied heavily on 25 founding partners, which range from Target to Nike to Augusta National Golf Club.