TheGrio’s 100: Cheyenne Woods, making her own name in golf

Cheyenne Woods readily admits to feeling the pressure; it just doesn’t flow from the source you might most expect.

“I try to set myself aside from the ‘Tiger Woods’ name,” said the golf-swinging niece of the most famous man ever to have graced the links.” I just try to make a name for myself. So I guess that’s my goal right now,” she recently told NPR.

That goal is second only to carving a space for herself in a vocation that, in more than a decade, has only employed three other African-American female players at the level to which she aspires. But, much like her uncle, Cheyenne Woods is undaunted. Perhaps that has much to do with the historic trail she too has blazed.

On the heels of a splendid high school career—back-to-back Arizona state titles at Xavier Prep — Woods enjoyed an equally impressive freshmen season at Wake Forest, where she finished fourth on her team with a stroke average of 76.2 and four top-20 finishes.

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It was enough for Golfweek magazine to take note. Editors ranked the 19-year-old sophomore in the country’s top 100 players from a core of more than 2,000.

Woods has found her groove while shouldering the added expectations of her family name. “She has a knack for being a role model,” Wake Forest coach Diane Dailey recently told the New York Times. “If she were not Tiger Woods’s niece, she would still have a specialness about her.”

Though she’s quick to admit the benefit of her lineage, her calling might be along the same lines too. While she was still in kindergarten, her grandfather and Tiger’s dad, Earl Woods Sr., taught her the game. By age eight, she was playing in her first tournament.

“I think I first started and continued to play golf because right around the time I started, Tiger had just turned pro and won the Masters and all that,” she says. “Seeing him on TV really made me want to keep going out and playing.”

That flame still burns. Woods has plans to turn pro after her days at Wake Forest are over. “I love it out there,” she recently said to The Buffalo News. “It’s never the same, always a new day, and you don’t have to rely on other people.”

And yet, Cheyenne Woods serves as an example for them.