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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Woods’ niece accustomed to focus

Wake Forest golfer aiming higher

Woods (The Spokesman-Review)
Woods (The Spokesman-Review)
Dan O’Neill St. Louis Post-Dispatch

LADUE, Mo. – If you are looking for Cheyenne Woods, it is easy to separate her from the crowd.

No sooner had Woods walked off the golf course recently at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Old Warson Country Club, than she was stopped for an autograph, then another, and then another.

In the largely anonymous world of women’s amateur golf, autographs seekers come few and far between. But not for a 19-year-old girl whose uncle is Tiger Woods, also known as the most famous sports figure on the planet.

“I’ve had to get used to that,” said Woods. “I’ve had to practice my signature a lot so that I don’t mess up anything. When I was little, I used to always, like I would have papers filled with my signatures. And I would be at school just practicing my signature. So I’m used to it. I don’t mind, not at all.”

For one who aspires to a golf career of her own, Woods is remarkably obliging and comfortable with what must become a wearisome association. Imagine trying to compete in a most-unforgiving environment with the comparisons and expectations that come along with that family bloodline.

Cheyenne is the daughter of Earl Woods Jr., who is Earl Woods’ son from a marriage previous to his marriage to Tiger Woods’ mother. Cheyenne hails from Phoenix, far from the Cypress, Calif., haunts where Uncle Tiger grew up.

She is not in regular contact with her uncle, who won the Buick Open last week for his 69th PGA Tour victory. She sees him or talks to him maybe two or three times a year, the way most people see or talk to uncles or aunts who live across the country. Tiger Woods, after all, now resides in Florida.

“People ask me if he gives me birthday presents and if we visit each other a lot,” Cheyenne said, “but really, I don’t talk to him very much. I don’t talk to my other uncles a lot either. We just talk every once in a while, just to keep in touch.”

However, her grandfather did have a profound place in Cheyenne Woods’ life. When Earl Woods Sr. saw his granddaughter was smitten with golf, he encouraged her and took every opportunity to work with her.

“We would send tapes (of lessons) to my grandpa just so he could see how I’m doing and how my swing was progressing,” Woods said. “We usually went out during spring break or the summer and spend a couple of days with him at his house.

“We’d talk on the phone and he would want to know how I am doing in school and stuff like that. And he would help us also — because he and Tiger went through the junior golf program — he would give us tips on what tournaments to play in and how to deal with stuff.”

How far Cheyenne Woods goes in golf remains to be seen, but anyone who walked along with her at Old Warson could see evidence of a smooth, fluid swing. She had four birdies through her first 11 holes but suffered a double-bogey at the par-3 No. 3 — her 12th hole — that undercut her momentum.

“She’s awesome,” said Allan Roberts, who caddied for Woods. “She’s very confident and very relaxed. She handled herself well. She’s very sweet, a really nice person.”

Cheyenne Woods won more than 30 junior tournaments before moving on to Wake Forest, where she had a 76.2 scoring average last season. She is one of five Wake Forest products in the field, a group that includes current teammates Natalie Sheary and Michelle Shin. Woods got into the field by shooting 4-under 68 and taking medalist honors in the qualifier at Alta Mesa Country Club in Arizona.

Hoping to move up the playing ladder at Wake Forest, she has had a productive summer, making it as far as the semifinals at the recent Women’s Trans-National Championship in Tennessee before losing to eventual champion Stacey Keating.

Woods also played in the Wegman’s LPGA event in late June on a sponsor exemption. She missed the cut, shooting scores of 75-74, but she loved the experience. “It was really fun,” she said. “It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in golf. It was really fun being out there with the pros.”

The experience has whetted her appetite.

“Now that I have gotten into college, I definitely am more, I guess you would say, driven,” Woods said. “Playing in the LPGA tournament, that definitely made an impression on me. So, I’ve had a good summer and hopefully I will continue that into the college season.”

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