Woods was a typical kid in high school
Paul Payne had the privelege of seeing Tiger Woods’ greatness first hand.
Payne, who now lives in Carson City and works three days a week at Thunder Canyon Golf Club, was one of Woods’ guidance counselors at Western High in Anaheim before retiring in 1998. So it figures that Payne will be paying close attention when Woods plays in next week’s U.S. Open.
While at Western, Payne was the head counselor and his duties include advising the athletes. One encounter with Woods showed Payne what kind of young man Woods was.
Payne called Woods into his office to tell him that he had sent his unofficial transcripts to Stanford. During the visit, Payne asked Woods if he had thought about what his major was going to be.
Woods told Payne he planned to major in business. When Payne asked why, Woods replied, “So I’ll know what those people are doing with my money.”
But while that conversation showed Woods’ confidence, Payne said Woods was never cocky.
Payne had the good fortune of coming to Western at the same time as Woods in 1990 and worked with Woods during his high school years through 1994. Woods lived in Cypress, so Payne didn’t believe it at first when he was told Woods was coming to Western. But Payne was then told that Woods lived in a section of Cypress that was part of Western’s district.
Before coming to Western, Payne worked on the junior high level and helped serve as an advisor for a junior high golf club.
“Tiger was known in the area,” said Payne about Woods even before high school.
“He was a very, very good student,” Payne said. “A very honest student. Obviously a great golfer. But in high school he was still kind of a kid.”
Woods’ studies was top priority, Payne said. “Tiger’s the type of kid that would study on his lunch hour in the coaches office.
“School came first. The golf was important, but school came first.”
Even before he got to Western, Stanford sent Woods a letter of interest stating that if he kept his grades up, he could be welcome at the school.
“I don’t think that was the real reason he picked Stanford, but I’m sure that was part of it,” Payne said. “It was very unusual, but he had the credentials.”
Payne said the main reason why Woods chose Stanford was for its business school.
“He liked fun things, but loved golf and obviously loves golf,” Payne said.
While Woods was a typical kid who liked to have fun, he never got into serious trouble, Payne said. Payne remembers one trip when he traveled with the golf team to Catalina when Woods was a freshman and a co-captain of the team.
Payne was sitting in a golf cart when Woods and the other co-captain, a senior, came over and asked if they could borrow the cart. Fifteen minute later, they came back with ice cream cones after taking a trip to downtown Catalina.
During the same golf match, Woods challenged his senior co-captain to a driving contest on the first hole, saying he could reach a canal close to 360 yards away.
While Woods didn’t reach it, he nearly did, striking the ball well over 300 yards. “He uncorked one,” Payne said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Even though he played in events like the Nissan Open in high school, Payne said Woods’ golf career never clashed with his studies.
Payne said Woods was a “real gentleman. He was well-liked by all the students at school.”
Another memory of Woods for Payne came when he took his parents to a high school game and his mother told him, “You can show me where Tiger sits.”
Woods was brought over by Payne to be introduced to his parents. “They thought that was the neatest thing in the world. He made a great impression on my folks.”
Payne said he plans to send a letter to Woods’ father, Earl, to give to Woods, saying “how proud I am of him.”
“I try to follow him as much as possible,” Payne said. “I don’t really expect him to win every time out, but I expect him to make a good showing and he’s never disappointed me.”
“It was a great time for me,” Payne also said about his years with Woods. “It was a fun time.”
Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal Sports Editor.