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Cheyenne Woods patient with Tiger questions in Pinehurst

By Andrew Carter
acarter@newsobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/18/21/40/14b7hS.Em.138.jpeg|428
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Cheyenne Woods watches her drive from the 13th tee box during Wednesday’s practice for the 2014 U.S. Women's Open Championship at Pinehurst No. 2.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/18/21/40/apGgV.Em.138.jpeg|390
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Cheyenne Woods watches the flight of her ball from the 15th tee box during practice for the 2014 U.S. Women's Open Championship at Pinehurst No. 2 in Pinehurst, NC on Wednesday, June 18, 2014.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/18/21/40/1gvIXT.Em.138.jpeg|203
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Cheyenne Woods watches her drive from the 14th tee box during practice for the 2014 U.S. Women's Open Championship at Pinehurst No. 2 in Pinehurst, NC on Wednesday, June 18, 2014.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/18/21/40/8SsUa.Em.138.jpeg|243
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Cheyenne Woods smiles after finishing practice for the 2014 U.S. Women's Open Championship at Pinehurst No. 2 in Pinehurst, NC on Wednesday, June 18, 2014.

PINEHURST After her round on Wednesday at Pinehurst No. 2, there were requests for autographs and pictures and, more than once, people asked Cheyenne Woods about her uncle.

If people asking her about Tiger Woods has grown old or annoying, Cheyenne didn’t show it.

She spent most of the time smiling and signing things – souvenir flags, golf balls – or framing herself behind camera lenses – once between two little girls, once standing next to a grown man.

This is what her life can be like, at least on the golf course, in a world in which her last name creates something of a spectacle. Not that she seemed to mind.

“It’s awesome,” Woods said after her final practice round before the start of the U.S. Women’s Open. “It’s good to see everyone’s support – whether it’s because of the name of not. It’s good to see people out here excited about women’s golf.”

Woods turned professional in 2012 after spending four years at Wake Forest, where she left school with the lowest single-season and overall scoring averages in school history. Long before that, her journey in golf began the same way her uncle’s did: under the tutelage of Earl Woods, Tiger’s father and Cheyenne’s grandfather.

“He’s the one who brought me out to the course – only a handful of times,” Woods said. “I didn’t get as much on-course stuff as Tiger did. But just little moments, like sitting in his living room and watching Tiger play on TV. Talking to him over the phone about report cards.

“He just really was a huge influence on me in terms of what I wanted to do in my life.”

Stories of Tiger Woods’ childhood have become the stuff of golf legend. Cheyenne Woods experienced some of the same things, but it was different for her.

One of her earliest golf memories is playing in a nine-hole tournament when she was 8 or 9. She said she shot 93.

“I thought I won because I had the highest score,” she said with a laugh. “I was so excited.”

This week has been something, too. She’s playing in the U.S. Open for the second time, on a course that’s not too far from Winston-Salem.

Woods’ college coach Dianne Dailey watched her practice round on Wednesday. Others are planning on coming down from Wake Forest too, Woods said.

During her practice rounds, she has received encouragement from Wake Forest fans, she said. At one point after her round on Wednesday, someone shouted, “Go Deacs!” Woods replied with a smile and a laugh.

People who simply know her as Tiger’s niece are attentive, too. She’s used to it.

“She handles it (well),” said Thomas Harmican, a Pinehurst caddie who is working for Woods this week. “She’s really gracious to everybody. She talks to them and if anything, she probably spends too much time (interacting). But she’s really a great young lady. A lot of fun. Doesn’t take herself too seriously.”

Woods competes on the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s minor league tour. If she does well enough there she’ll put herself in position to earn a spot on the LPGA Tour.

In her first U.S. Open, in 2012, she didn’t make the cut after finishing the first two rounds 9-over par. It was a learning experience, she said.

“(I learned) just to be here and be in this environment,” Woods said. “And the energy of it, it’s exciting to be here, and you know the course is set up as tough as possible, so you have to be patient. ... So it’s just an adjustment, and I think just the experience of being in an Open is the best thing that happened.”

Woods said she hasn’t spoken to Tiger about playing Pinehurst No. 2. He didn’t play last week in the men’s U.S. Open but, before the course was restored to its more natural, sandy state, he finished tied for third in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in 1999 and second in 2005.

“I may go ask him a few things before I actually get started,” Cheyenne Woods said.

She tees off at 8:24 a.m. on Thursday. Her last name is likely to draw attention, and crowds. Now she’s hoping to give people a performance worth following.

Carter: 919-829-8944 Twitter: @_andrewcarter
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