BlackAmericaWeb.com – May 4, 2006 – Monica Lewis – Earl Woods was an example of what every good father should be — supportive, selfless and determined to see his child have more than he had.

The man behind the ascension of one of the worlds greatest golfers died at his California home Wednesday after a long battle with cancer.

Tiger Woods, who in his 10-year professional career has become golfs top money-maker, earning $58 million, posted a message on his website acknowledging the death of his 74-year-old father, who he called his best friend and greatest role model.

“I’m overwhelmed when I think of all of the great things he accomplished in his life. He was an amazing dad, coach, mentor, soldier, husband and friend. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him, and I’m honored to continue his legacy of sharing and caring, Tiger wrote.

A Vietnam War veteran and retired U.S. Army lieutenant, Earl Woods was a fixture at his son’s tournaments, despite having been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998. After a relapse in 2004, the elder Woods became too frail to travel to Tigers tournaments, missing his sons Masters appearance for the first time last month. Many believed his fathers condition had weighed heavily on Tiger, who finished tied for third place in the tournament he won four times, most recently in 2005.

A dynamic athlete in his own right, Earl Woods was the first black to play baseball at Kansas State University, having received an athletic scholarship that allowed him to break the color barrier there in 1951. The Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues offered Woods a contract after he graduated in 1953, but he turned it down to enter the Army, where he amassed a 20-year career, earning Green Beret status along way.

John F. Murray, a clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Florida, said its understandable that Tiger Woods now has more on his mind than preparing for upcoming golf tournaments.

“Anytime somebody extremely close to you, especially as close as Earl was to Tiger, dies, it’s going to have an enormous and long-lasting impact, Murray told BlackAmericaWeb.com. Theres really no way of escaping the grieving. The only way to deal with it is to go right through it.

Ralph Vernacchia, a performance consultant and professor at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., agreed.
no secret that its a real process we go through when we lose a parent, said Vernacchia, whose 92-year-old father died earlier this year.

Å“Its very challenging, in terms of what affect losing someone can have, and the impact comes in different ways, depending on the relationship, Vernacchia told BlackAmericaWeb.com, adding that it was very apparent that Tiger Woods and his father had a very close bond. The fact that their relationship was so highly visible, the world can share in Tigers mourning and offer support during this very difficult time, Vernacchia said.

“The major thing for all of us experiencing grief and loss is the comfort we receive from others. Regardless of what we do or who we are, its a wonderful gesture, and its very comforting

Some now wonder if Tiger Woods will take a break from the links and grieve his father in private. Vernacchia said judging from how dedicated Earl Woods was to his sons golf career, he can’t imagine Tiger staying away for too long, if at all.

“I’m sure we always think of what our parents would want us to do, said Vernacchia, who has served as a performance consultant for Olympic track and field athletes, helping them to overcome situations to achieve peak performance.

“In some cases, you’re really honoring their wishes when you go on with certain things,Vernacchia said. I have a feeling that Tiger knows what his father would like for him to do.

Murray agreed, suggesting that Tiger Woods may very well use his fathers passing to push himself even more — just like Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre did when his father, Irvin, died in December 2003. Favre, leading his team on a Monday Night Football game, threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns as the Packers routed the Oakland raiders 41-7, one day after Irvin Farve died of a heart attack.

In addition to his strong showing on the field, Favs mental toughness during such a trying time left many spellbound, Murray said.

tiger may have a short-term period of distraction, but it will be very interesting to see how he responds, Murray said, calling Favre the perfect example of someone pulling it all together.

“My personal sense is that (Tiger) will not take any time off and that he’ll play in his fathers memory, Murray said. “I know he kind of expected this day to come, but my heart still goes out to him.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.