By John Strege
Tiger Woods, legend, the amateur years, might have been markedly different had his third-round match with Buddy Alexander in the 1994 U.S. Amateur at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., not taken an unlikely turn.
Alexander is the long-time University of Florida golf coach who on Tuesday announced he was retiring. A former U.S. Amateur champion and Walker Cup player, Alexander coached two national championship teams at Florida.
In his match with Woods, then 18 and not yet in college, Alexander was 3 up and on the verge of going 4 up with five holes to play. “He’s going to make one more run,” Tiger’s father Earl said presciently.
Alexander then lipped out a three-foot par putt to win the 13th hole, a miss that even Woods admitted gave him a reprieve. “If he had made the putt it was basically over,” he said.
Apparently unnerved, Alexander began to unravel, with bogeys at Nos. 14, 15, 16 and 17 that allowed Woods to go 1 up with one to play. Each double-bogeyed the 18th, giving the match to Woods. He would go on to win the first of his three consecutive U.S. Amateur championships. Alexander had played the final six holes in seven over par. Woods played them in three over.
Thus Alexander had contributed to Woods’ growing legend, but fortunately had done nothing to his own. He will retire as one of the great coaches in college history, a three-time national coach of the year and a member of the Golf Coaches Association of America's Hall of Fame.
(Getty Images photo)