Cheyenne Woods competed in her first tournament since March earlier last week on the Cactus Tour, where she tied for third. The 29-year-old turned professional in 2012 after a successful college career at Wake Forest and became the sixth African-American player to join the LPGA. Woods talked to Golfweek about a wide range of topics, including the shocking death of George Floyd, being biracial in a predominately white game and her increasingly difficult road back to the LPGA.
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I hadn’t played since that first Symetra event the first week of March, so for me it was very strange. I’d been playing money games and playing around with friends. The first few holes it kind of hit me when I realized I had to actually putt everything out. You don’t just get to pick it up.
I was signed up for the first Cactus Tour event. It was the week of the Founders Cup (in March) when everything was announced and canceled, and I ended up withdrawing from it because I wasn’t comfortable. I needed to be more well-educated on the situation, on what was going on, and to make sure I was doing what was best for me, my family and everyone around me. From then to now, I have grown so much and just been comfortable with where our world is that I definitely feel safe going out and competing with these new guidelines and adjustments.
It’s crazy because the time has gone by so fast. Looking back, it’s been almost three months of being at home. It’s the longest I’ve been home since high school. It has definitely tested my optimism of accepting the reality of our situation and making the most of what’s happened.
It also forces you to get out of the comfort zone of your routine, what you’re used to in life.
I’m going to be in Florida for the month of June. I’m going to play those Eggland’s Best events for three weeks to a month. I’ll probably come back home and see if anything has changed with the schedule and possibly pick up Cactus Tour from there.
When we got the news of no Q-School, limited cards through the Symetra Tour, no Monday-qualifiers, it was definitely a heartbreaker. But it’s understandable. I was kind of expecting it. But it definitely forced me to adjust what my year is going to look like. I will commit, I have to commit, to playing Symetra Tour, trying to win a few times, top five, whatever (LPGA) status I get I get and then focus on 2021. Seeing what events I can get into, Monday qualifying, just trying to get back on LPGA full time.
I love baking. It’s like my favorite thing to do. I got a bike and I’ve been biking on trails in the desert. I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned about myself is that I always thought I was a homebody, but now I know for sure I’m a homebody. I love quarantine life.
I thought (Tiger) looked good. None of us really knew what to expect. He looked like he was swinging it great, played pretty well. It was a little bit distracting to have everything else going on. But from the shots that I saw, he looked good and he looked relaxed.
The TaylorMade event was for a great cause, as was The Match, but the golf world is more than just men’s golf. It was disappointing that it was put on by a golf company. I think it should represent all of golf. It is disappointing, and I know a lot of the girls felt the same way. So many instances we do get left out. So many instances people say they are advocates for women’s golf and want to help create this equality and grow the game, but then when you have the opportunity to do so, a lot of times it just falls short.
Just thinking about (George Floyd) again gives me goosebumps and chills. This is a tough reality of what’s going on in our country. It’s a storyline and it’s a tragedy that has happened way too many times in all of the history of society, but now again it’s being filmed and being broadcast on social media, so it is spreading.
It’s confusing that it’s still happening. It’s frustrating to see people still defending or not quite understanding why people are so outraged. It’s sad to see and heartbreaking that that is a reality of black America, and to think about the conversations that you have to have with your children about police interactions or how to deal with being in society in general. Conversations about it are really difficult to have. You see it in the news, it’s hard to watch, hard to talk about. But it is the reality of what people deal with so it’s important to have these conversations.
I think the older I’ve gotten the more I realize that I do have a very powerful platform as a female golfer, as a minority golfer and using that. I think as an athlete or a public figure, a lot of times you almost get forced to feel like you have to live middle-of-the-road and not go one way or another or say anything too extreme. But there comes a point where you have to have a voice and you have to speak on what matters to you because it does make a difference in people’s lives and can influence and spread a lot of positivity and change. … You see athletes like Lebron James and Steph Curry speak out about these issues and it’s very powerful to see somebody in that light have such a strong stance on something that matters to them. I think they are great role models in that sense of just truly having a voice.
With my white friends or non-black friends, they are very empathetic to what’s going on. With my black friends though, it hits more personal. It hits closer to home because in every person that you see murdered, that could be my dad. That could be my cousin. In some instances, it could be me.
So my mom is white and my dad is black, and I’ve had more conversations about this with my dad. He’s aware of how he might be perceived by people or police officers. He’s an older guy and he does not have a filter, so I have to remind him like don’t forget, be nice, just do what they say. Don’t try to talk back, don’t say anything that could anger somebody or escalate the situation.
In the past I’ve had black male friends, I’m on the phone with them as they get pulled over and I remind them, put your hands up, don’t touch anything, call me as soon as you’re good to go. Things that you never thought you’d have to worry about or have conversations about, but because of what’s going on in our country it’s not even in the back of your head, it’s the first thought that comes to mind. I think that’s really scary, but it is the reality of what we’re going through.
In being biracial, a lot of times I found myself just kind of in the middle of not fully, not necessarily accepted, but just kind of finding similarities with the majority white crowd on the golf course. Or if I’m playing in a minority tournament and it’s majority black people, kind of just in the middle of the mix. And so when I was at golf tournaments, I was a lot of times just doing my own thing.
I grew up in a white and Mexican neighborhood, white schools and white golf tournaments. That was normal to me until I was exposed to minority tournaments. Then I went to college and I was around more black people, more diverse crowds, and that’s when I kind of found more of my own identity as a biracial woman and kind of connecting with that identity. Not really feeling like I needed to fit in, but then being able to connect with one or the other or a lot of switching back and forth. But in the golf world, you are always in a majority white environment, and so it is so important to have that foundation of our own identity so no matter where you are, you’re comfortable in that.
(Junior minority tournaments were) the first time that I had ever encountered black people on the golf course. Growing up in Phoenix, we had a minority golf group that was pretty mixed and diverse, black golfers, Mexican, Asians. But those minority tournaments, it was minority golf. I had never experienced that before. I didn’t know black people really played golf like that or that they were that high-level of golfers. That’s where I met Mariah Stackhouse and Joseph Bramlett and Harold Varner. That’s where we all met and grew those relationships. It definitely showcases the level of golf throughout the country that I was never exposed to just locally. So those are very important tournaments to have.