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Friday, May 1, 2009

Shooting for Tiger...

In every sport, we've heard it time and time again. Who will be the next Babe Ruth? Who will be the next Bobby Orr? Who will be the next Gale Sayers? Who will be the next Roberto Clemente? Who will be the next Michael Jordan?

In golf, the question is: "Who will be the next TIGER WOODS?"

“Shooting For Tiger: How Golf’s Obsessed New Generation Is Transforming a Country Club Sport by William Echikson takes a look at that question in the world of golf, as marketers, fans and networks look to where golf’s next stars will come from and who they may be. Echikson followed the junior golf circuit of the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) and many of its young players who are striving to become the next Tiger…or Tigress.

Echikson, an author and former staff correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, FORTUNE, and Business Week who also worked as the Brussels bureau chief of the Dow Jones Newswires, embarked on the journey of junior golf with his son Samuel. Along the way, he gained unique access to some of the most gifted young golfers in the world to report his fascinating insight to the mind-set of teenage athletes who face the challenges of the golf course and its potential to lead them to a life on teh PGA or LPGA tour..

Seventeen-year-old Vicky Hurst (Melbourne, FL) is one of the rising stars profiled in “Shooting For Tiger.” Dubbed “the female Tiger,” Hurst is a 2006 Junior All-American, ranked No. 2 on the Polo girls ranking of all American junior girl golfers, and a legitimate candidate for Player of the Year. Hurst, along with Courtney Ellenboggen (Blacksburg, VA), Kristen Park (Buena Park, CA), Jane Rah (Torrance, CA), and others represent a new breed of female golfers who are turning professional in their teenage years with high-powered games that is rejuvenating the once-sleepy Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour.

Along with Echikson’s son, Samuel, the author also follows in the footsteps of numerous prominent boys including Peter Uihlein, a 17-year-old front-runner for Player of the Year honors and son of Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein. Another familiar face dotting the pages of “Shooting For Tiger” is tennis legend and eight-time Grand Slam champion Ivan Lendl, whose daughters Marika and Isabelle compete in the AJGA events. Lendl explains how his family splits time between homes in Connecticut and Bradenton, FL in order to keep his daughters on the golf course all year long.

According to the press material recently issued in support of the book, “Shooting For Tiger” culminates with the following assessment from the author:

“The long junior golf journey across the United States, and for some, across the Atlantic Ocean, has witnessed teenagers soar to victory and display impressive sportsmanship in one tournament, only to crumble in the subsequent event and descend into childish temper tantrums. Many parents have lived vicariously through their children’s moments of triumph and failure; others have provided impressive and moving moments of selfless support to help their children ride out their rockiest moments. No single method of parenting or training has emerged as a magic ticket to ensuring future success.”

The boot camp academy approach has produced legions of standout players, but it is expensive and too young an institution to offer a conclusive track record. The method of homeschooling players to allow more dedicated golf time remains, at best, an experiment. The European socialist model, which relies on combing the countryside for the best players and enrolling them in rigorous training programs, is hard to imagine on American turf. The Korean method, which leans heavily on parents to play a steadfast role as coach and encourager, isn’t easily replicable.”

“If teenagers want to succeed, in golf or any other athletic or artistic passion, they must practice and compete. Studies show that many stressed teenagers, under pressure to perform, risk tumbling into severe depression, while talented offspring of more laid-back, encouraging parents are more likely to be able to enjoy and excel at their passion. In junior golf, it’s often difficult to discern whether parents or children take the lead.”

“For the most part, the junior golfers on the green are too young to ask tough questions about their passion. They just go out and play. ‘I just love golf,’ is the only answer Alexis Thompson offers when I asked her about her choice to dedicate herself to this tough sport.”

“Shooting For Tiger: How Golf’s Obsessed New Generation Is Transforming a Country Club Sport” is available in all major bookstores, as well as

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