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Tiger Woods Looks to Influence More Than Golf in Washington DC

Tiger Woods came to the Washington, D.C. area last week to host his first professional tournament -- the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club. The world's number one player is seeking to make an impact beyond golf and raise money for one of his charities. The Tiger Woods Foundation provides educational programs for economically deprived children. VOA's Tony Budny has the story.

Tiger Woods: the name alone tells a story. At 31- years-old, Tiger Woods has won 12 major professional golf championships -- more than anyone else has by his age, and he is shooting for Jack Nicklaus' record 18. Many considered that record unbreakable just 10 years ago. Now, Woods is expected to break it.

Forbes magazine ranks Woods as the richest athlete in the world. He made more than $100 million last year in endorsements and prize money. But he gives a significant part of that away. He sponsors three charitable organizations, including the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Woods's tournament returned professional golf to the Washington area after the Professional Golf Association abandoned it last year.

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem in March explained the importance of Woods's involvement.

"Tiger Woods has been not just a great player, not just a great competitor, but somebody who has changed the face of the game of golf and certainly elevated the impact of the professional side of the sport,” said Finchem. “And to have his direct involvement is unique for the Washington, D.C. area."

Woods's diverse background is part of his appeal. His late father was African-American. His mother is Thai. He credits both with teaching him values that inspire his daily life, and influence his charity work.

Woods wants to expand the Tiger Woods Foundation from its U.S. west coast roots to the Washington D.C area. He says the money raised during his tournament will have an impact on his goal.

"Hopefully, it'll be a positive enough impact that we can donate an inordinate amount of charitable dollars to the local community here as well as hopefully finding a site and building our own East Coast learning center,” says Woods. “That's the ultimate goal and this is the first step in that."

Woods' father spent 20 years in the military. Woods says that also was part of his motivation for sponsoring the tournament.

"Growing up in, basically, in the military, even though my dad was retired, I basically grew up on a military base,” explains Woods. “And, just understanding the commitment that it takes, each and every day, what they do, the service men and women, for us, I just think that it was, something that would've been and should be honored and that's why we are doing it. I think that's just a way to say 'thank you'."

Woods's personal life recently took a dramatic turn. He and his wife Elin had a baby, Sam Alexis, and Woods says his daughter gives him a fresh perspective on his place in the world.

"How can you love something so much that didn't exist the day before? We'd never experience anything like that before. Certainly, it was one that was different and one that was special and something that we want to experience again."

Woods says he knows his celebrity status makes having a family difficult. He travels much of the year, but he says he plans to make family his first priority just as his father and mother did for him.

"Well, business-wise, there will be plenty of opportunities out there. It's about choosing the right opportunities but also with new addition to family, I probably won't be exploring as many as I would have before. My priorities are right now with being at home at trying to be there for Sam and for E (Elin). That's important to me and what I'll be doing in the future."

Woods tournament drew 139,000 people, and four of the other top six golfers in the world. K.J. Choi of South Korea won it. Woods finished tied for eighth. He says he plays to win, but since the birth of his daughter, winning is not everything.

"...That night was infinitely more rewarding than any 'W' could have been."