Tiger, his Green Beret Father, and his desire to be a SEAL

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Tiger, his Green Beret Father, and his desire to be a SEAL

I'll grant you this one is a bit off the beaten path, but if you love golf, and love the military (which I love both) then this really long story by ESPN (LINK HERE) will be fascinating to you.  Everyone knows the sordid details of Tiger's fall from the pinnacle of his sport, and the complete destruction of his family life.  But this article looks at how he wistfully tried to rebuild it by going back to his father's military roots.

One snippet in particular I was interested in:

Just after the 2004 Masters, Tiger and his dad took a trip together to Fort Bragg, where Earl had been stationed with the Green Berets. A group of Earl's old military buddies came along, while Tiger got the VIP tour, running with the 82nd Airborne and tandem-jumping with the Golden Knights, the Army's parachute team. The man assigned to take Tiger out of the plane was a soldier named Billy Van Soelen, who explained the difference between broad daylight at Fort Bragg and pitch-black combat situations. "Your dad was doing tactical jumps," he said, nodding around at the controlled environment. "This is Hollywood."

Van Soelen strapped Tiger to himself and then the two flung themselves out into space, smooth with no bobble. Tiger grinned the whole way down.

Earl was waiting in the drop zone, Van Soelen says, and he gave Tiger a big hug.

"Now you understand my world," he told his son.

Although I wasn't in the 82nd, I was there running with them that day because our unit had been called up for Afghanistan, and they wanted base wide participation in the run.  Tiger was a stud.  He was running with everyone else, even doing laps to say hi to units and wave, and he wasn't even panting.

Later in the article, after his father's death and his divorce, Tiger went to the SEALs to get some training:

TWENTY-FIVE DAYS after he buried his father and 15 before the 2006 U.S. Open, Tiger went back to visit the Navy SEALs, this time to a hidden mountain training facility east of San Diego. The place is known as La Posta, and it's located on a barren stretch of winding road near the Mexican border. Everything is a shade of muted tan and green, like Afghanistan, with boulders the size of cars along the highway.

This time, Tiger came to do more than watch.

He tried the SR-25 sniper rifle and the SEALs' pistol of choice, the Sig Sauer P226. One of the instructors was Petty Officer 1st Class John Brown, whose father also served as a Green Beret in Vietnam. Brown pulled Tiger aside. The sun was shining, a nice day, and the two men talked, standing on the northeast corner of a shooting facility.

"Why are you here?" Brown remembers asking.

"My dad," Tiger said, explaining that Earl had told him he'd either end up being a golfer or a special operations soldier. "My dad told me I had two paths to choose from."

Brown says Tiger seemed to genuinely want to know about their way of life. Tiger asked questions about Brown's family and they figured out that Brown's wife and Tiger shared the same birthday. Tiger told him not to ever try to match Michael Jordan drink for drink. They talked about Earl, and Brown felt like Tiger wanted "safe harbor" from his grief, a way to purge some of it even, to prove something to himself, or maybe prove something to the spirit of Earl, whose special ops career never approached the daring of a SEAL team.

Anyway, if you are a fan of Tiger, or even hate him, the article is still excellent, and I commend it to your reading.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.