Father of Tiger Woods buried in unmarked Kansas grave |
MANHATTAN, KS (KCTV) — It was one of the greatest moments in sports.
The best golfer in the world, who famously cheated on his wife, battled with pills and sex addiction, and had a bad back, made one of the best comebacks in sports.
If you watched The Masters in April, you probably saw old video of Tiger Woods and his father, Earl Woods, hugging so many years ago.
Tiger Woods’ fifth green jacket and 15th major gave people around the world goosebumps.
Eldrick Tont Woods did not become Tiger without his dad.
When he was six months old, he hit golf balls in the garage while his son looked on from a high chair.
When Tiger Woods could swing a club, his father began parading him around television. Soon, the golf genius couldn’t be stopped.
“In the 15 years that I was on the Tiger beat, they were the most exciting years of my golf writing life,” John Garrity said.
Garrity was a golf writer for Sports Illustrated for 28 years. He started covering Tiger Woods when he was just 16, and Garrity still remembers meeting Earl Woods.
“He (Earl) whips out his wallet and pulls out a photograph,” Garrity said. “A snapshot of Tiger in diapers practicing golf. Except it wasn’t a golf club and golf ball. It was a vacuum cleaner attachment and tennis ball. Earl’s face would just light up talking about Tiger.”
Earl and Tiger Woods were inseparable. They wrote books together, and Earl Woods was always a part of his sons celebration on Sunday.
“Earl’s approval meant so much to him,” Garrity said. “It was probably the primary motivator for him through all those early years. Before money and fame.”
“I’m at a loss for words. There’s my dad. He shouldn’t of been there. He was recovering from a heart attack. And surgery,” Tigers Woods said at Augusta about the famous bear hug.
Earl Woods died in 2006. His remains are buried at Sunset Cemetery in Manhattan, KS. To find him, and the Woods family, you need a cemetery map.
Lot 5, block 12.
Underneath an overgrown tree, in between the hidden headstone for Maude Woods and an unremarkable one for Miles Woods, Earl Woods, the father of one of the most successful athletes of all time is buried in an unmarked grave.
Cemetery sexton Michael Mohler knows exactly where the remains of Earl Woods are, because he dug the hole.
Mohler got a phone call three days before the burial. He says he never spoke with Tiger Woods
“It was his people that set everything up,” Mohler said.
Only four guys with the City of Manhattan knew that Tiger Woods would be in town to bury his dad.
“That’s as far as it went,” Terry DeWeese said. “Because once word gets out, you know how it leaks. It goes a long ways.”
DeWeese was the director of the parks and recreation department at the time.
“We pretty much blocked off the cemetery to keep people out,” DeWeese said. “They had their service. As soon as their service was over they left.”
Tiger Woods, his mom, now ex-wife Elin, and three half siblings were on the private plane that landed at the Manhattan airport. They were only in town for a little over an hour.
“They requested it to be kept quiet, and until the burial was made, it wasn’t public record,” Mohler said.
In a remarkable twist of fate, Earl Woods is buried across from a headstone for the Masters family. It is the only sign of golf greatness in the old city cemetery.
“I’m surprised that Tiger didn’t build a mausoleum for his dad somewhere in southern California,” Garrity said. “I don’t get it. I don’t get it because they couldn’t have been closer for most of Earl’s life.”
The lack of a headstone is unbelievable, but a burial in Manhattan does make sense.
Earl Woods was born and raised in Manhattan. He was a talented athlete and he went to Manhattan High School where he’s honored on the schools wall of fame. He played baseball for Kansas State and was the first African American baseball player in the former Big Seven Conference.
Earl Woods was so good, he was offered a contract to play for the Kansas City Monarchs. He joined the Army instead and became a Green Beret.
The last time KCTV News saw Earl Woods in town was at Colbert Hills golf course when he helped launch the First Tee program.
“Tiger reminds me of an African prince walking among his subjects when he’s stalks down the fairway,” Earl Woods said at the time about his son. “He’s proud, he’s aloof, but yet, there’s this genteel aspect of him, and people identify with that.”
Earl Woods had three kids with his first wife. Kultida Woods, Tiger Woods’ mother, was his second wife.
“Tida Woods was the disciplinarian,” Garrity said. “She was the one who would tell Tiger, not so fast.”
And Kultida Woods may be the reason why Earl Woods’ final resting place looks the way it does.
“Earl had a reputation as a womanizer, and it’s also clear that she (Kultida) was aware of it.”
It has been written that Kultida Woods was in charge of Earl Woods’ burial.
KCTV5’s Ellen McNamara called and emailed Tiger Woods’ agent and public relations team to get a comment about the unmarked grave, but she got no response.
That does not surprise Garrity.
“Anything that Tiger finds sensitive they’re trying to block,” Garrity said.
“And clearly a story about his father’s burial, is pretty sensitive,” McNamara said.
“It really is,” Garrity said.
Despite the powerful image of Earl Woods and his son hugging, he continues to be forgotten in a field full of dandelions.
Whatever the reason, that is exactly how the family wants it.