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Earl Woods Jr

Earl Woods Jr

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The curious 2-year-old stumbled upon the old golf bag in her grandfather's garage and pulled out one of the cut-down clubs.

In a matter of seconds, little Cheyenne Woods was attempting to emulate her world-famous uncle's swing.

The niece of Tiger Woods was a chip-shot off the old block from the start.

"She had us in stitches," recalls Susan Woods, Cheyenne's mother.

"She was just doing what kids that age do.

We never viewed it as the start of something big." When Earl Woods saw Cheyene pick up a club as a 2-year-old, he knew he had another prodigy on his hands.

( / Getty Images)Ah, but it was.

And it wasn't long before Cheyenne's grandfather, Earl Woods Sr., realized that the girl had a gift -- a fluid, economical swing and the eye of a Tiger.

So, as he had done with his celebrated son, Earl taught Cheyenne the basics of the game.

And like the man she calls "Uncle Tiger," she proved precocious, winning her first national tournament at the ripe, old age of 10.

Now, as an 18-year-old sophomore-to-be on the Wake Forest University women's golf team, Cheyenne has aspirations of following in Tiger's spike-steps and making a living smacking dimpled, white balls up and down fairways.

This week, she'll take an important step in that journey when she plays in her first pro tournament -- the Wegmans LPGA -- at Locust Hill Country Club in suburban Rochester, N.Y.

Woods received the sponsor's exemption invitation last month, and gladly accepted after conferring with you-know-who.

(Each tournament can reserve two spots for amateur golfers.) "My uncle was very excited for me when I called him and asked him what he thought," Cheyenne says.

"He said sponsor's exemptions were very hard to come by and that I should definitely take it.

He felt I was ready for this experience, and I agree." The galleries at the Wegmans are among the largest on tour, and tournament officials expect the young woman with the famous surname to be followed by a sizeable crowd of spectators, photographers and television camera men when she tees off Thursday.

"I didn't really experience huge galleries during my freshman season (at Wake Forest), but I have experienced the media scrutiny for some time, so I'm used to that," she said.

"I learned long ago that it comes with the territory.

Hopefully, I can make it worth their while by playing well." Woods has modest expectations for her pro debut.

"I would love to make the cut, and see what I can do from there," Cheyenne says.

"I'm going to use this tournament to see how I handle large galleries and how I stack up against the best women golfers in the world." The Phoenix resident has compiled an impressive golf resume that includes two Arizona high school championships and 30 amateur titles.

She finished a respectable 70th -- about the middle-of-the-pack -- at the recent NCAA championships.

"She had a solid freshman season at Wake, but I was still shocked when she received the invitation," says Susan Woods, who was married to Earl Woods Jr.

-- Earl Sr.'s son from a previous marriage.

"I thought she wouldn't receive a sponsor's exemption for a few more years.

But it came earlier than expected, and we're really excited to see how it goes." After Cheyenne won that national tournament as a 10-year-old, the media learned who she was related to, and soon the girl was inundated with interview requests.

On the advice of Earl Sr., Susan Woods limited the number of interviews to a precious few.

"She was just too young to have to deal with all that stuff," Susan said.

"But in recent years, we've taken off the restrictions.

She's grown a lot, and I think she's a lot more comfortable in front of the cameras." Many relatives of celebrities don't fare well; they tend to be crushed by enormous expectations that come with a famous surname or wilt in the shadows of it.

But Cheyenne appears comfortable with her royal golf lineage.

She understands the comparisons to her famous uncle are inevitable and endless.

She realizes she will never be able to elude them, no matter how successful she becomes.

"It would be nice to have your own identity, but that's virtually impossible, I guess, because Tiger is so big -- in golf and beyond," Cheyenne says.

"It would be kind of like Michael Jordan's son playing in the NBA.

The shadow they cast is just too big to escape.

But I don't mind.

I'm proud that he's my uncle and I'm thankful that I chose a sport that I love and he loves.

I see it as a positive being related to the best golfer who ever played the game.

I really do." Scott Pitoniak is an author and freelance writer based in Rochester, N.Y.

You can read more of his work at's-niece-takes-aim-at-LPGA's-best
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