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School's in, despite Tiger's many woes

School's in, despite Tiger's many woes

A statue of Earl Woods, left, and his son Tiger Woods is seen at Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif. The Tiger Woods Foundation has improved the lives of more than 10 million young people in its 13 years. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

By Tim Dahlberg, AP Sports Columnist

February 01, 2010

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Outside the Tiger Woods Learning Center, visitors are welcomed with a message etched in concrete and another time.

“Tiger,” it says, “thank you for being an adult role model.”

Inside, past a huge bronze sculpture of Woods and his father in the lobby, eager fifth-graders wielding scalpels and tweezers are busy dissecting squid. In another classroom, they’re studying marine science.

Every week brings busloads of kids to the sparkling, new center just a few good Tiger tee shots from Disneyland. The center’s mission is to help them think about how different classes — which tilt toward math, science and technology — can lead to a career they’d like.

For the time being, it’s business as usual at the 35,000-square foot center, set next to a municipal golf course in a working-class neighborhood. The fallout from the scandal that brought down the school’s benefactor hasn’t intruded, so far, at a place where Woods always believed he did his best work.

Greg McLaughlin, head of the Tiger Woods Foundation, says the center has enough financial support to carry on while Woods is on hiatus from golf.

The future is a bit more unsettled, if only because everything about Woods right now is unsettled. But if McLaughlin is worried, he doesn’t show it.

“We feel pretty confident we’re in a good place right now,” he said. “We have a pretty strong financial position which is a tribute to our ”">fundraising efforts, and I think that will sustain us during Tiger’s indefinite leave."

While every new day seems to bring a new sighting of Woods and paparazzi scramble to get pictures of him and his family, things are decidedly more quiet at 1 Tiger Woods Way, where life inside his learning center goes on just as it has the last few years.

Fifth-graders arrive every morning by bus for their weeklong stay. They seem more interested in trying to build a rocket or filming a video than they do in the personal life of the man who made the place possible.

“They haven’t made any comment about it at all,” school director Katherine Bihr said.