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Nike's Phil Knight says company's recruitment of Tiger Woods began three years before he turned pro

June 28, 2017
Tiger Woods Foundation's 20th Anniversary Celebration at the New York Public Library - Arrivals

Gustavo Caballero

Nike co-founder Phil Knight said in a Bloomberg Television interview that his company’s recruitment of Tiger Woods went on for three years prior to his turning professional.

“You could see him coming from way back,” Knight said. “He had won three U.S. Juniors and then went on to win three U.S. Amateurs in a six-year span from the time he was like 15 ‘til 20. He would play occasionally in the Portland area and we’d always invite him and his father out to lunch. We were working on that probably for three years before we actually signed him.”

Woods won the U.S. Junior Amateur at Waverly Country Club in Portland in 1993; the Pacific Northwest Amateur at Royal Oaks CC in Vancouver, Wash., adjacent to Portland, in 1994; and the U.S. Amateur at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains, Ore., west of Portland, in 1996.

In the aftermath of his victory in the '96 U.S. Amateur, Woods turned pro and reportedly signed a $40 million, five-year contract with Nike. He has represented the company ever since.

In the Bloomberg interview, Knight was asked about Nike’s decision last year to leave the golf equipment business.

“It’s a fairly simple equation,” Knight said. “We lost money for 20 years on equipment and balls and realized next year wasn’t going to be any different.”