ROCKFORD — Anybody who has organized an out of doors occasion is aware of the sensation of helplessness when Midwestern climate threatens all of the arduous work.
Nancy Kauzlarich had that feeling on the morning of July 1, 2001, at Rockford’s Ingersoll Golf Course.
“I used to be standing on the porch with Mike Tulley, Judy Sheley, and it was raining,” Kauzlarich mentioned. ”We had been all saying a bit prayer.”
This wasn’t simply any occasion. Kauzlarich, Tully and Sheley had been a part of a multistate, multiorganizational effort to persuade the Tiger Woods Basis that Rockford and Beloit, Wisconsin, had been worthy of a daylong clinic, exhibition and dinner for the world’s most in-demand athlete.
Twenty years in the past, Tiger Woods was not just the most popular golfer in the world. He was a world phenomenon approaching the height of his athletic powers and incomes potential.
In 2001, Woods would go on to earn $65 million, shifting him previous System 1 race automotive driver Michael Schumacher because the highest-paid athlete of the world. He would go on to carry that distinction for 11 straight years.
The trouble to get Woods to city was unsuccessful for 2000, however organizers came upon in December that Rockford was certainly one of simply 4 cities chosen for 2001.
“I labored on that each day or no less than each different day for 2 years,” mentioned Ruth Miller, who was the group packages coordinator below mayors Charles Field and Doug Scott. “There was simply a lot prep work, folks to go to, lunches for the youngsters to prepare, grant cash, coordinating with the police and the park district. The muse had lots of necessities we needed to meet.”
To deal with the anticipated ticket demand, the park district constructed momentary stands for 4,000 folks on Ingersoll, making it a nine-hole course for the early a part of the yr. To enhance the look of the neighborhood, the town spent $200,000 repaving Daisyfield Street and the park district spent $32,000 on a chainlink fence to maintain folks from having the ability to crash the occasion from the west a part of the course.
Betsy Menge, 86, nonetheless lives on Daisyfield Street and remembers that summer time.
“I don’t keep in mind the highway being paved, however I do keep in mind the fence going up,” Menge mentioned. “, there’s part of the highway now close to West State that basically dips. Your automotive bounces going over it. Perhaps we are able to get Tiger to come back again so that they’ll repair that.”
Kauzlarich gave up most of her spring Saturdays to assist put together.
“We would have liked golf golf equipment for all the youngsters who needed to come back to the clinic so we reached out to the group,” mentioned Kauzlarich, who labored for the park district from 1978 till retiring this February. “We bought sufficient golf equipment to place collectively 100 units. (Kauzlarich and buddy Stasica Narrarini) spent 4 Saturdays on the Webbs Norman Middle reducing and regripping the golf equipment.”
Woods’ father, Earl, got here to Rockford the day earlier than the clinic and performed golf with a few of the organizers after which spoke to an overflow crowd at Pilgrim Baptist Church. Kauzlarich’s prayers then had been answered. The rain on Sunday dissipated, the followers stuffed the stands and the youngsters eagerly awaited Tiger’s arrival, which is Kauzlarich’s favourite reminiscence.
“Watching Tiger Woods drive up the golf green with (the music) ‘Eye of the Tiger’ blaring and seeing the youngsters’ response,” Kauzlarich mentioned. “That made all the work value it.”
Dave Claeyssens, who labored on the park district from 1978-2014, remembers what occurred proper after.
“He begins his clinic by taking out a pitching wedge and hitting the primary one 150 yards, the second 200 and the third 250 yards,” mentioned Claeyssens, who spent many years round golf because the park district’s director of golf operations. He additionally performed in eight Rockford Professional-Ams so he’d been round skilled stage gamers.
“Tiger at the moment was simply in one other world,” he mentioned. “It was incredible to observe him hit balls.”
Curiously, it wasn’t simply Tiger who was at his peak in 2001. In 1999, Golf Digest picked Rockford as the very best mid-sized metropolis for golf in America. The Woods clinic raised greater than $200,000 for youth golf packages in Rockford and Beloit. The assumption was the clinic would result in an excellent larger golf increase.
It didn’t occur.
In 2001, Rockford’s inhabitants was 151,655. By 2009, that had grown to 157,280. After all, by 2009, the Nice Recession had taken maintain in america and Rockford was hit arduous with unemployment ultimately hovering as excessive as 17.3% in January 2010. Households started shifting to seek out work. Rockford’s inhabitants has shrunk each single yr since 2009.
The financial struggles of the realm meant far fewer gamers on the golf course. The Rockford Park District has knowledge on the rounds performed at its programs again to 2010. That yr, with unemployment properly over 10%, there have been 166,819 rounds performed. By 2019, with unemployment under 6% for many of the yr, there have been simply 91,517 rounds performed at Rockford programs. Curiously, the variety of rounds performed elevated in 2020 throughout the pandemic.
Tiger, too, has had his struggles.
He was coming off his second Masters win when he got here to Rockford in 2001. He would win 12 extra main championships from 2001 to the 2008 U.S. Open, dominating the game like no different golfer in historical past.
In 2008, although, he would bear knee surgical procedure, inflicting him to overlook a number of months. Since that damage, he’s had surgical procedure on his again 5 occasions. He’s now recovering from a number of leg fractures he suffered after he crashed his SUV on a California freeway.
And naturally, there was the 2009 incident the place he crashed his personal automotive in his driveway and it was revealed that he’d been a serial cheater on his now ex-wife. That performed out within the media for a number of months.
He’s received just one main since, a really emotional 2019 Masters win.
Nonetheless, the folks that labored so arduous to get Tiger right here in 2001 stay his supporters.
“Oh yeah, I’m nonetheless a fan of Tiger,” Claeyssens mentioned. “Nancy (Kauzlarich) and I bought to go train with him a pair extra occasions in San Diego and Florida. He’s very talkative. You may inform he cherished children. It was only a neat expertise.”
“For those who go into anybody’s life, you’ll discover issues they aren’t happy with,” mentioned Miller, who has retired to Florida. “Due to his stature, he was checked out much more intently. After I consider Tiger, I take into consideration the best way he’s paved a approach for lots of people. Good, unhealthy or detached, he’s made a novel affect within the golf world.”
Alex Gary is a contract correspondent.