Tiger Woods walked off the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday a major champion for the first time in more than a decade. His legion of fans at the course cheered as Woods scooped up his young son, Charlie, in a bear hug.
Almost 400 miles away here in The Villages, Scott Romesburg teared up at the scene unfolding on the television inside the pro shop at Palmer Legends Country Club. “I felt it right here,” the Village of Hillsborough resident said later, pointing to the side of his right eye. “Just think of what all he has gone through.” Romesburg was just one of thousands of Villages residents — at golf clubhouses, in their homes, at restaurants and bars — who were glued to television sets early Sunday afternoon witnessing history being made in the sport that is a vital part of daily life in their community.
Ken Roshaven, the regional PGA professional with The Villages, said his phone had been buzzing all morning, his friends and co-workers all exclaiming at Woods’ exploits.
“It’s great for the game of golf,” Roshaven said. “It just shows what you can accomplish if you stay at it and never give up. It’s huge for him and his family.
“It absolutely was one of the best Masters I have ever seen.”
One does not have to follow golf closely to at least know the outline of Woods’ story.
Bursting onto the seen in 1997, just a spindly 21-year-old at the time, Woods blitzed the field at the Masters, winning by 12 strokes the first of what would be 14 majors and 79 PGA Tour victories over the next 13 years of nearly unparalleled dominance any sport has witnessed.
But his fall from grace would come almost as quickly.
There was the Thanksgiving weekend car accident in 2009, the following revelation of numerous extramarital affairs, the guilty plea to reckless driving in 2017.
Outside of his self-inflicted personal issues, his body began falling apart, requiring numerous knee and back surgeries.
Two years ago the thought of Woods playing again, let alone winning a Masters, was something he admitted to not thinking would happen.
But then another surgery — spinal fusion this time — and hope. He contended in two majors in 2018 and won the season-ending Tour Championship in September for his 80th career PGA Tour victory. And then, finally, Sunday’s victory, his fifth at Augusta and 15th major victory overall.
“I had serious doubts after what transpired a couple of years ago,” Woods said. “I could barely walk. I couldn’t sit. Couldn’t lay down. I really couldn’t so much of anything. ... To have the opportunity to come back like this, it’s probably one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had for sure because of it.”
Woods hugged Charlie, his daughter, Sam, and his mother, Tida, at the same spot where he famously embraced his father, Earl, after that first Masters win 22 years ago.
The symmetry was not lost on his fans in The Villages.
“I flashed back to the scene of him hugging his dad,” Romesburg said. “Like he said, he’s come full circle. Just think where he was two years ago — he couldn’t even chip — and look where he is now. The work he has had to put in is tremendous.”
Gary Davis was heading to the driving range at Glenview Champions Country Club not long after Woods’ win. He said he has long been a fan of Woods and has seen him play in person more than 20 times.
“It was just historic. And think of the context behind it, with [Earl] not getting to see him win many and then his son now being old enough to realize his dad just won the Masters,” the Village Santiago resident said. Earl Woods died in 2006. “I think I need to have my roof checked because there was a little rain coming into my living room, if you know what I mean.”
Inside Glenview’s clubhouse, sales associate and Village Santo Domingo resident Don Franz said a number of patrons had gathered inside the pro shop to watch the tournament. He said their cheers were only drowned out by those coming from diners in the club’s restaurant upstairs.
“Today was a slow day because everyone was at home watching,” Franz said. “But we had a number of folks in here watching, and everyone was rooting for Tiger.
“Some people might not be happy because some folks don’t care for what has happened in his past, but you have to admire him for the hard work he has put in to get back to where he is at. It’s unbelievable.”
Woods’ 15th major victory leaves him still three shy of Jack Nicklaus’ 18, a mark that once appeared all but inevitable to be bested by Woods. Sunday’s win gets Woods a step closer, but at 43 he has an uphill battle in front of him.
Tom Rex is a big Nicklaus fan and is OK with that.
“I’m halfheartedly rooting for Tiger,” the Village of Duval resident as he walked onto the driving range at Palmer on Sunday. “I want him to get to 15 or 16 (major victories), but not over 18.”
As for Nicklaus, he was cheering on Woods.
“A big ‘well done’ from me to Tiger,” Nicklaus posted to social media. “I am so happy for him and for the game of golf. This is just fantastic!”
A sentiment shared among many in The Villages.
“I love it,” said Kandis Grunditz. The Village of Mallory Square resident was working alongside Romesburg at Palmer. “To come back to this point, you just have to respect the work he has had to put in.
“I think it’s great for the game of golf.”
Ryan Gregg is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5283, or email@example.com.