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Cheyenne Woods has lofty goals, taking baby steps to get there

By Bill Kiser
Correspondent
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    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
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    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
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    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
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    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
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    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Cheyenne Woods follows through on her drive from the 17th tee box at Raintree Country Club on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Woods was practicing for this week's Symetra Classic. Woods is a Wake Forest graduate and the niece of PGA Tour superstar Tiger Woods. She is enjoying her best season as a professional with her first major tour win in February when she won the Australian Ladies Masters.

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Cheyenne Woods has some pretty lofty goals as a professional golfer – making it to the LPGA Tour, winning tournaments and winning championships.

Not a surprising attitude, considering her family tree, but Woods is taking the small steps necessary to achieve those goals.

Woods, the niece of PGA superstar Tiger Woods, is playing the full Symetra Tour – the LPGA’s developmental series, akin to the PGA’s Web.com Tour – this season, her second as a full-time pro.

“You definitely have to have your overarching goals, the bigger picture,” Cheyenne Woods said Tuesday at Raintree Country Club, site of this weekend’s Symetra Classic.

“But in order to get there, you have to take the baby steps. You have to progress each week, each day. … I definitely have goals of winning – every tournament I enter, my goal is to win and improve from the week before.”

However, because of her last name and famous uncle, Woods has had to face higher expectations – and with them, the glare of the media spotlight – than the other 143 golfers entered in this weekend’s tournament.

It’s something the Phoenix native has faced most of her life.

“It comes with the territory,” said Woods, 23, who turned pro in 2012 after graduating from Wake Forest, where she was a two-time All-American and the ACC champion in 2011.

“Whether it’s the last name you have or you’re the No. 1 golfer, you’re always going to have the attention,” she said. “Being a professional athlete comes with a spotlight, comes with the good and the bad of the media, but I might get a little bit more than the average because of my last name.

“I remember when I was 9, 10 years old, cameras were following me at golf tournaments. So this is something that’s been a part of my golf career ever since I was young.”

It was her grandfather – yes, Earl Woods, Tiger’s father, who passed away in 2006 – who set Woods on her career path. He was a constant presence at her junior tournaments and even found her current swing coach, Mike LaBauve, when she was 11 years old.

“He was the visionary,” Woods said of her grandfather. “He saw me pick up my first club, he saw me really take a love for the game, and he saw me throughout my junior career.

“He never told me, but he had an idea of what my career would become … and how it would take place. I don’t know what he had in mind, but I think he saw big things for me. You could just tell by his excitement when he’d be on the course with me.

“I think he’d be really, really proud. He’d be excited for me. I wish he was here still to this day, just to be able to learn and be able to appreciate this part of my career with him.”

Woods had a breakthrough of sorts in February, winning her first major tournament at the Australian Ladies Masters (a Ladies’ European Tour event). But her results on the Symetra Tour have been hit and miss.

She has made the cut in six of the tour’s first seven events but has broken par in only six of 21 total rounds. Woods’ best finish this season came in February, a tie for 14th at the tour’s season opener in Mesa, Ariz..

“It’s been a little rocky,” Woods said. “I’d have a great round one day and struggle the next. It’s just a matter of getting all the pieces together and play consistently all three days.

“I know that I belong on the LPGA, I know that my game is capable of LPGA status and getting me there. I just need to earn my way there.”

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