Will Woods impact future generations of golfers?

Tiger Woods made his PGA Tour debut 15 years ago, as a 16-year-old amateur at the 1992 Nissan Los Angeles Open. Today, he remains the only African-American to play full-time on tour.

How will Woods impact future generations of golfers? We asked the experts in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.

Tiger Woods will drive more young athletes to pursue pro careers in future generations.

Bob Harig, contributor, ESPN.com: FACT. He is already doing so and will continue to do so. Tiger has made golf cool for many who would not have given it a second thought.

Jason Sobel, golf editor, ESPN.com: FACT. Woods has replaced Michael Jordan as the most recognizable sports figure on the face of the planet. He will serve -- and has served -- as inspiration for people of all ages to take up the game of golf. Some of those people will be young, some of them will be good, some of them will make a career of it. It's only natural.

Ron Sirak, executive editor, Golf World: FACT. Woods has done two things to grow the game of golf: He's made it cool, and he's made it possible to get rich playing the game. Both will mean a better-quality athlete takes up golf.

John Antonini, senior editor, Golf World: FACT. Kind of. It's really a hard thing to quantify. After all, Woods can get youngsters into golf, but talent will make them professionals. I have to believe that in time, some young pros will claim Tiger's influence got them into the game.

Tiger Woods will drive more young minorities to pursue pro careers in future generations.

Harig: FACT. Pursue is the key word. Whether they get to play professional golf is another issue.

Sobel: FACT. If Tiger is spurring more young players to take up golf and eventually turn professional, some of those players will, naturally, be minorities. Woods will be a critical figure in many young people's decisions to pursue pro careers -- no matter their culture or background.

Sirak: FICTION. More minorities will take up the game only when more minorities move into the upper middle class. If the greatest skier in the world was a minority it would not mean there would be more minorities skiing simply because there are no mountains in the inner city. No golf courses either.

Antonini: FACT. Again, it's somewhat unavoidable. Between the First Tee programs and his foundation and learning center, Woods is doing what he can to get more minorities into golf. Eventually there will be a payoff.

The PGA Tour will have more minority members 10 years from now.

Harig: FACT. How can it not? Woods is the only African-American at the moment, and those numbers have to increase. Don't they?

Sobel: FICTION. Though Woods is the only African-American player, let's remember that the tour is incredibly diverse, with its members coming from 22 different countries this year. Though the number of African-Americans can -- and should -- only increase, the tour will be happy with a similar cultural makeup as far as overall numbers are concerned in 2017.

Sirak: FACT. But that's only because Tiger Woods is the only person of African-American descent currently on tour. When Tiger was born 30 years ago there were 10 on tour. The elimination of caddie programs in favor of revenue-generating carts has closed a door to the game for people from modest economic backgrounds.

Antonini: FACT. There's one African-American on tour now. It's hard to envision the tour in 2017 won't have at least double that number.

Subscribe to:

Golf Digest