FOR WOODS, SILENCE IS OLDEN
Cheyenne, Tiger’s niece, no longer keeps her thoughts on racism to herself
There was a time when Cheyenne Woods thought it best to keep her thoughts to herself, particularly when it came to taking on racism and inequality. She has realized, however, that that’s a luxury she can’t afford. No one can.
On “Changing the Game,” a new podcast from USA Today Sports, the professional golfer spoke about using her platform, whether it’s to spotlight systemic racism or the continued lack of diversity in the sport she loves.
“You’re going to get the backlash,’’ Woods said. ‘‘You’re going to get the comments and the negativity. And it’s scary to put yourself out there. This time it does feel different. So many people are speaking out, and I don’t care if you like what I say or not. I truly believe that this is what’s right, and it’s in my heart.
“And if I lose, as I have, thousands of followers because I’m speaking up about what I believe is important and right in the world, I don’t care if you unfollow me. I don’t care if you don’t support me. Because I truly feel like I’m on the right side of history in terms of supporting Americans and Black Americans and what’s going on in the world today.”
Woods, in her eighth year as a professional, had hoped to play her way back onto the LPGA Tour this year. She’s a member of the Symetra Tour, a developmental tour, and can also play on the European tour.
But commissioner Mike Whan announced in May that status on all tours would be frozen because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there would be no Q-school. That means Woods will have to play whatever tournaments she can to stay in competitive shape and focus on next season.
“You have to just press pause and find yourself outside of golf and find things that can fulfill you when golf is not always there,” she said.
Woods has spent part of her downtime focusing on the podcast she hosts with Doug Smith, “Birdies Not BS.” After the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked protests throughout the country, Woods and Smith devoted an episode to the lack of diversity in golf.
She also participated in Race Fore Unity, a virtual fundraiser to benefit Girls Golf ’s Renee Powell Grant, which helps provide access to the game to Black girls.
“A lot of my generation started playing golf because of Tiger Woods,’’ she said. ‘‘But you haven’t always seen the domino effect, the ripple effect in the broader game or industry. So it’s disappointing.’’
For her in particular because, yes, she’s a Woods as in Tiger Woods. The 15-time major champion is her uncle, and they both learned the game from Earl Woods.
“There have been a lot of internal conversations within the Tour, in the golf industry in general, of, ‘What can we truly do?’ ” she said.
“Girls Golf is coming up with a grant that will be supporting Black girls playing golf and helping them gain access to the sport. And I think that’s what it truly takes: Let’s specifically try to get Black girls into the game and support them financially. Give them a space where they can come in. We have to be a little more hands-on than we have. And it’s exciting for me to see those conversations being had now.”
Woods was almost 7 when her uncle won his first Masters, so she has been getting questions about him for as long as she can remember. While she understands the interest — particularly since she, too, is a golfer — and doesn’t mind talking about him, she has worked hard to establish her own identity.
She won individual and team ACC titles when she was at Wake Forest. She has been a professional for almost eight years and won the Australian Ladies Masters in 2014.
But Woods also recognizes the opportunity her last name provides. She knows there are people who wouldn’t normally watch women’s golf but will watch a tournament she’s playing in simply to see how “Tiger’s niece” does. If that helps grow the game, she’s OK with that.
So, too, if her last name amplifies her calls for equality and diversity. Once reluctant to voice her opinion, Woods now wants to be heard loud and clear.
‘‘WE HAVE TO BE A LITTLE MORE HANDSON THAN WE HAVE. AND IT’S EXCITING FOR ME TO SEE THOSE CONVERSATIONS BEING HAD NOW.’’ CHEYENNE WOODS, on getting more Black girls to participate in golf
Cheyenne Woods was almost 7 when Tiger Woods won his first Masters.