You’ve known both types. There are people in everyone’s life who would complain if they won the lottery and find fault with a lifetime supply of ice cream. And there are others who seem to wake up with a smile and sunny disposition no matter what life throws their way.
Cheyenne Woods is the latter. She always has been, even when circumstances could have sent her the other way.
The 29-year-old enters her eighth year as a professional with a lot of questions. By her own admission, she did not have a great 2019. She has very little LPGA Tour status. She is still welcome on the LET, where she won her lone professional event on a major tour, the 2014 Volvik RACV Ladies Masters. And she is still a member of the Epson Tour. But with a 30th birthday coming in July and an up-and-down career that has never allowed her to plan ahead, no one would think twice if Woods stared into the distance with the hardened gaze born of too many life blows.
That is not Cheyenne at all. She still says hello as if speaking to you is the most thrilling moment of her day. There is still eye contact and the effervescent smile that has been present since she won the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship at Wake Forest and captured more than 30 amateur titles.
Those wins seem long ago now. But the attitude is the same. As she begins her 2020 campaign with back-to-back starts at the ISPS Handa Vic Open and ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, Woods does what she’s always done: focus on the positive and leave the negative behind.
“I finished last season playing the last two LET events and I played really well there, which was nice because my LPGA Tour year last year didn’t go quite as planned and my trip to Q-Series didn’t go quite as planned,” Cheyenne told LPGA.com. “So, it was nice to finish last year on a high note and I’m excited to get this year started in Australia.”
By year eight, most players might complain about the grind. The joke is that people who love to travel don’t do very much of it. But Woods is still a happy warrior, saying, “I love to travel. I love to prepare to get my game to be as good as it can be to play at the highest level. When I was at Wake Forest, I loved being on a team and having that bond. I loved all the NCAA tournaments. So, I felt like I was ready to take my game to the next level. Things haven’t gone exactly as I had hoped, but I’ve been able to travel to some amazing places and experience some tremendous things. It’s been a great journey so far.”
As most eternal optimists do, Woods finds the positives in her failures. “It’s different when you’re playing amateur and collegiate golf,” she said. “You have grit but not like at the professional level where you are playing at the highest level and you’re playing a lot. The biggest transition from college and amateur to professional level is the amount of golf that you’re playing and the grit you need to continue on even if you don’t have your ‘A’ game. You have to fight through it. Golf is such a rollercoaster that you really have to battle through those lows because you never know what’s going to happen the next round, the next week. That’s when you find out how much you truly love it and how far you’re willing to go; how hard you’re willing to work to keep going.
“I’m definitely a grittier player because of the ups and downs of the last eight years.”
That is one of the reasons that despite her lack of wins and limited starts, Woods is still one of the most popular and recognized figures in the women’s game. Granted, being Tiger Woods’ niece hasn’t hurt. But even there, her attitude has been extraordinary. Never once has Cheyenne rolled her eyes when asked about Tiger. And she is asked about him every day.
“I’ve heard them all,” she said with a laugh. “But I’ve been in this situation since I was 9 years old and first started playing golf. Since my first tournament I’ve had a camera in my face with people asking about Tiger. To me, it’s what I’m accustomed to. Yeah, it was a little difficult when I turned pro because it was heightened then. And you do want to be recognized as your own person. But I totally get it. People want to know.”
One or two questions in, people forget about Tiger because of the charm and magnetism that naturally exudes from his niece.
“Part of it is my natural personality,” Cheyenne said. “I love being in front of people. I love fans and I enjoy doing media. In turning professional, I did want to create an identity for myself so that I could be known as Cheyenne Woods and not just Tiger Woods’ niece. Growing up I always had that title and I knew that it was never going away fully. But I also wanted people to know that I am a player in my own right with my own personality and persona. It was a conscious effort to allow people to see me.”
They will see her the next couple of weeks in Australia. After that, the schedule, once again, is up in the air.
“I was torn between playing LET and the Epson Tour this year because, of course, my goal is to have full status on the LPGA Tour,” she said. “So, I’m going to play the two events in Australia and see how they go, see if I can play well enough to move forward (on the LPGA Tour schedule). If not, I will commit to the Epson Tour. I do have LET status and I always enjoy going over there and playing in whatever events I can. Whether it’s Australia at the beginning of the year or Spain and Kenya toward the end. And I’ve been to Dubai and Abu Dhabi at times. With (the LET) having a full and strong schedule now, I think I’ll be able to hop over whenever the Epson Tour has a break and play a few events in Europe. It’s great that we have so many options now.”
And it’s great that more people will get to know Cheyenne, not because of her famous relative, but because of the infectious optimism that everyone who meets her hopes to catch.