Tiger Woods won the Masters. Tiger Woods hugged his kids. And Tiger Woods hugged his mom.
All of those moments were special, but Woods’ moment with his son, Charlie, in particular made golf’s narrative crafters cry. It had an obvious parallel. Tiger hugged his father Earl at the same spot 22 years ago.
After Tiger Woods won his first Masters in 1997, he embraced his father, Earl.
22 years later after winning his 5th Masters, he got to share that same moment with his own son, Charlie. pic.twitter.com/BqH1AyvM6A
— ESPN (@espn) April 15, 2019
The moment was tailor-made for Augusta National, which was built by men, and for men. Because of that, father-son relationships make up a substantial portion of the stories we tell about the Masters. But the tournament is only so often about “fathers and sons” because we say it is. The people who watched Jack Nicklaus hug his son — who caddied for him — after winning in 1986 watched Tiger hug his in 2019. Augusta National has made an empire on retaining feelings of an idyllic past that aren’t true for all of us.
Most notably, those of us whose mothers played an even greater role in their lives.
The notion of fathers and sons at The Masters has never made me feel the way it’s supposed to, the way the nostalgia is as pre-packaged as those pimento cheese sandwiches. It has never filled me with longing for Sundays past with daddy because those didn’t exist in the simple way I would have liked.
A father-son bucket list trip for us isn’t in the cards. We never watched golf lying on our tumbuckets. He never showed me how to hold a club. I was connected to Tiger and his dad by longing and hope. I’m the boy who would have given anything to know what it feels like to hug his dad like this, projecting without a frame of reference.
But I do know what it feels like to embrace a mother and say “We did it.” I know how much work those three words can do.
Tiger said that to Kultida after the win. Yet another victory built on the foundation she laid decades ago driving him to tournaments in “an old Plymouth duster.”
I said those words to my mom after graduating college. The school she worked to put me through. The sacrifices she made to create the opportunity.
Sons put their mothers through hell to varying degrees. They love us through it all because they’re mothers. Kultida has suffered the horror of watching the sins of her husband become the sins of her son. She has been angry at her son for those mistakes. And yet, there she was right off the 18th green on Sunday.
Tiger was asked about the parallel between hugging Charlie and hugging Earl.
“It’s been 22 years. Life goes on. But there’s been one continuity through it all — my mom was there.”
There are only so many things that can connect us athletic mortals to Tiger Woods. I don’t have the wealth, and I don’t have the back pain. I don’t have the father figure, but I do have the mother who was always there.
The woman who I’m still scared of like he is. The woman who never gave up on me. And she — like Kultida, and every other dedicated mother in the world — could never be given all the credit she deserves.