Cheyenne Woods was born, it seems, determined to win. “I have two older brothers, and I was always playing every sport with them, wanting to beat them in everything,” she says with a slight smile. “Winning is always in the back of my head.” And, if her current standing as just the sixth African-American woman ever to play on the LPGA Tour is any indication, it seems Woods is on the right track. “It’s been a long journey to work up to this point,” she says. “I played college golf for four years, then I turned pro, played for a year and a half, and finally got my LPGA card. It’s gone the way it should have.” Now, Cheyenne is readying for her rookie year, playing an entire season of professional golf, touring the world, and preparing for (hopefully) more victories. “Last year, I had my first professional win in Australia, which was really exciting — it was on the European Tour on the Gold Coast of Australia, and for me, that was real validation. It was a confidence boost.” But, Cheyenne is no ordinary rookie. In fact, her recent trip to New York City involved the photo shoot you see here, plus meetings with magazines like Teen Vogue and Glamour. She also just appeared in the pages of Marie Claire’s May issue and has racked up almost 85,000 followers on her social media accounts. For sure, the girl’s got game…but at least some of the spotlight shining on her has had to do with her name.
“When I was six or seven years old, I thought it was so cool that Tiger was on television, and that he was so successful and everybody knew him,” she says of her uncle, who currently ranks as one of the highest-paid athletes in the world. “In golf, there weren’t many exciting people to watch, so to see Tiger and know I was related to him made it really cool to play golf.” Cheyenne minces no words about her admiration for her uncle — in fact, she’s his biggest supporter on social media, alerting her followers to when he’s playing and how he’s doing. It’s from Tiger that she learned one of the game’s most valuable lessons: “He taught me to trust my ability. In golf, a huge part of the game is mental, and if you don’t believe in yourself, then you’re not going to play well. Trust what you’re able to do, and that will be huge when you’re out on the course.” Luckily, she’s unfazed by the headlines and the seemingly constant mentions of the fact that she’s Tiger’s niece. “It just feels normal,” she says. Keeping her message positive and remaining on track — even as headlines turned toward her uncle’s controversial personal life — may have served as a veritable training ground for Cheyenne. “[The recognition] is good, actually, in the sense that it’s prepared me for the stage on the LPGA. I’ve had media attention and spotlight, so I know what it’s like.” Perhaps witnessing fame is what instilled a sense of duty in Cheyenne, beyond being an extraordinary athlete. “It’s rare to see people of color in professional golf,” she says. “Golf is seen as a men’s sport, but also, it’s seen as a white man’s sport… There’s a lack of [diversity] on both the men’s and women’s sides.” This year, Sadena Parks and Cheyenne were both granted their LPGA cards, making it the first time that two black women are on the Tour together — ever.
This particular experience has inspired Cheyenne's ambitious plans to make golf more readily available, especially for young women. “I grew up middle class, and golf was expensive,” she says. “It’s hard to gain access to it… I think it would be good to see it in local schools — to teach kids that you have opportunities other than basketball, track, and football.” In the meantime, though, the LPGA Tour is keeping her plenty busy, as she travels all over the world with her fellow athletes. And, luckily, competition doesn’t seem to get in the way of good sportsmanship. “It’s not as cutthroat as you think — golf is such a social game,” Cheyenne explains. “I grew up playing the sport around girls, and I made a lot of friends. On the course, you create friendships… You’re playing with these people for six hours every day, and you talk about life. You wouldn’t imagine the things we discuss on the course!” Even though she wants to win, of course, golf has less to do with who’s the strongest or the fastest, and more to do with who’s having the best day. “I can’t control what she’s going to hit,” Cheyenne adds. “You’re playing against the course. We’re competitive, but we’re not playing against each other, really.” In that way, golf supports her not only financially, but also in preparation for what might come her way off the course. “It keeps you humble,” Cheyenne explains. “When you’re on the course, you could be having the most amazing day ever — you’re six under [par] through 10 holes or something, but then you hit a double bogey. In life, it happens like that, too; you can be going on a great track, and then something pops up. It keeps you appreciative of what you have going on, both in life and on the course.” Correction: An earlier version of this article misquoted Cheyenne as saying “you’re 600 through 10 holes.” What she actually said was, “you’re six under.”
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