Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods, long after the day when he played an a golf exhibition at Redlands Country Club, a 6-year-old on his way to a prominent career in the sport. He played against Redlands’ Michele Lyford, shooting 51 to her round of 43.

CORTE MADERA, Calif. — Michele Lyford-Sine, who lives in a quiet neighborhood in this smallish community a half-hour’s drive north of San Francisco, remembers running into PGA golf professional Dave Stockton in New York a few years back.

Stockton, who was playing the Westchester Open, stayed with Lyford-Sine and her family in that 1999-2001 era.

“When we lived there,” said Lyford-Sine, originally from Redlands, “he’d come stay with us when he played in that tournament.”

Stockton, a Redlands resident, mentioned to Tiger Woods, said Lyford-Sine, telling the 2019 Masters champion, “I’m sleeping at the house of the only girl that’s ever beaten you.”

That remark might have caught the 15-time major champion by surprise.

A 15-year-old Michele Lyford hits off the practice tee, the scene coming just a few years after beating a tiny Tiger Woods in a golf exhibition at Redlands Country Club.

The date was Dec. 30, 1981.

The site: Redlands Country Club.

“I was only 12,” said Lyford-Sine. “I was asked to play.”

Redlands Country Club golf professional Norm Bernard, described as a huge proponent of junior golf, had known Rudy Duran, who was Tiger’s personal coach. Together, they formed the match, a 9-hole exhibition on RCC’s front nine.

“I was nervous,” Lyford-Sine said. “I couldn’t let this 6-year-old beat me. I was twice as old as he was and he was half my size.”

In the end, she shot 41 — not a bad score for a 12-year-old on the par-35 RCC front nine — and Tiger shot 51.

“It was,” she said 38 years later, “a little weird not having my dad there.”

Ted Lyford, the multi-year RCC club champion, was at work. Neither was her mother, but younger sister, Jennifer, followed the play.

“The way people hover over their kids,” said Lyford-Sine, “kind of made it seem strange. That’s the way it was back then. Parents didn’t hover as much as they do now.”

Tiger’s dad, Earl, was there, she recalled. “I remember his dad lifting him up so he could see the slopes of the course.”

Tiger, who was just turning six, had already appeared on the Mike Douglas Show, ABC’s That’s Incredible and, perhaps, another program or two. He was considered a golfing prodigy. Few probably figured that this kid would someday turn professional golf on its ear.

Lyford-Sine shared another small connection with Tiger. They both eventually attended Stanford.

“My entire goal in life,” she said, “was to get a full scholarship to Stanford. I won a few big tournaments and that got me in.”

Among those “big” tournaments was the 1987 Girls CIF-Southern Section championship, beating Rialto Eisenhower’s Brandie Burton, that year’s runner-up, at North Ranch Country Club. Burton would later become a top LPGA Tour player.

Lyford-Sine was a San Diego Junior World champion in 1983, shooting 227 to win the girls 13-14 division. Lyford-Sine repeated in 1987, winning the girls 15-17 division by shooting 295.

By the way, a kid named Eldrick Woods was the 9-10 champion in 1984, winning the first of six Junior World titles.

Eldrick Woods is none other than Tiger Woods.

Stanford, though, was a tough haul for golfers — male or female — with certain majors in school.

“You’re in a school that has the smartest people on the planet,” she said.

If she was looking to show off her golfing accolades and her academic prowess, consider most people would take on a major that’s routine enough to include both athletics and academics. “There are some majors you can do that with,” she said.

“Tiger left (Stanford) after two years.”

Whether he left to pursue a brilliant pro golf career, or that he was caught up in that academic-versus-athletic war is unknown. “I’ve never thought to ask him,” she said.

“You cannot compete athletically and compete academically,” she said. As golfers, “we missed so much school. It doesn’t feel good.”

After two years, she left golf to complete her academic workload.

“I did okay (in golf), not great,” she said.

Six years earlier, just after Christmas at Redlands Country Club in 1981, she probably wasn’t thinking about a Stanford academic workload.

“We had people following us,” she said, “but I got over the nervousness.”

Afterward, Bernard threw a birthday party.

“I remember,” said Lyford-Sine, “we sang happy birthday to him and he blew out candles on a cake inside the restaurant at Redlands Country Club.”

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