Southland savvy

Tiger Woods, who grew up in Cypress and honed his game on Southland courses, smiles before hitting his drive on the 18th hole of the South Course at Torrey Pines during the third round of the Buick Invitational golf tournament in San Diego on Jan. 27. (Denis Poroy / AP)

Woods lives in Florida now, but he grew up in Orange County playing the courses of Southern California. He describes how the experience helped him become the dominant force in the game.

'Growing up in Southern California and being able to play on so many courses as a junior was such a highlight for me, and a great learning experience.

"I was really so lucky, with my dad right there with me when he wasn't working, and then with my mother spending so much time taking me to junior tournaments and then taking me back home. She hardly missed a tournament, ever.

"Looking back, I think that probably the toughest course I played was at Industry Hills, the Eisenhower Course. From the tips, it's 7,211 yards, and that was plenty. I also remember playing Jason Gore in the Southern California Junior Championship, which was match play. I think I was 13 and he was 14 and I beat him, 1-up. That was a pretty big deal back then. But all of it, every bit, was such a great experience. It's where I learned how to complete.

"No question, it was such a huge part of my life and I've got nothing but great memories about it.

"Playing the SoCal circuit was a springboard to the USGA juniors and I did all right in those, and the U.S. Amateur too. I'm proud of my amateur record. I remember one tournament, although I can't remember the name, where each contestant got a free golf bag, and that was very cool in the junior circles.

"So when I think of what it was like back then and what it meant to my game, it was a proving ground. It's not just the place where I learned how to compete, it's also where I learned how to win."