NASSAU: Tiger Woods on Saturday recalled George H. W. Bush as a passionate golfer and a “class act,” as many across the sports world mourned the death of the 41st US president.
“I met Mr. President back when I was an amateur, so back when we were practicing in Houston, so it’s been a long time,” 14-time major champion Woods said at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, where many in the 18-man field remembered Bush with the number “41” on their caps.
“I met him on numerous occasions. He was fantastic to be around. He was just one of the smartest people I’ve ever been around, and so down to earth,” said Woods, who played a number of rounds with Bush while in Houston and at the exclusive Lochinvar Golf Club, just a short distance from George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
“We’d play one of those very quick rounds, 18 holes in probably under two and a half hours,” Woods said.
“His name is synonymous with golf. Being around him for all these years and getting a chance to be around him at Presidents Cup and him being involved in it since its inception in ’94 — he was such a class act.
“Anyone who’s ever been around him knows how much he loved his golf and how much he supported it and how much we’re going to miss him,” Woods added of the former president, whose father and grandfather both served as president of the US Golf Association (USGA).
The PGA of America honoured Bush with its Distinguished Service Award in 1997. The USGA awarded him its highest honour, the Bob Jones Award, in 2008.
In 2011, he joined Dwight Eisenhower as the only former US presidents to be inducted into the golf Hall of Fame.
Masters champion and Houston native Patrick Reed recalled meeting both Bush and his son George W. Bush, remembering them as “amazing people”.
“With what he’s done throughout his entire life for our country and for everyone in Houston as well, he’s going to be dearly missed,” Reed said.
Golf wasn’t Bush’s only sporting passion.
He played for the Yale University baseball team in the first two College World Series in 1947 and ’48 — and was said to keep his Yale baseball glove in an Oval Office desk drawer.
His connection with the national pastime continued with George W. Bush’s ownership of the Texas Rangers, he and attended Houston Astros games for many years.
Bush father and son were both part of the pregame ceremonies before game five of the 2017 World Series in Houston, the penultimate game in the Astros’ championship win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In February 2017, Bush Sr made the ceremonial coin toss before Super Bowl LI in Houston, between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons.
“President Bush was a true friend of the NFL and a genuine fan who understood the power of sports to bring people together,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement posted on Twitter on Saturday.