Tiger Woods' epic win at the Masters Sunday is stoking hopes that golf itself will soon stage its own local comeback.
Professionals at Bakersfield golf courses said Monday they expect a surge of interest in the sport, including among parents deciding whether to enroll their children in golf classes, as a direct result of Woods' big win.
"When Tiger was doing well, golf was doing well. When Tiger was down and out, golf was down and out," said Alan Sorensen, director of golf at North Kern Golf Course.
In Kern, golf fell on hard times several years ago and hasn't quite recovered. At least two courses in the county have closed, and two more faced financial problems that made their future look uncertain.
Few who cater to golfers locally doubt there will be at least a temporary resurgence. But it may be weeks before there are clear signs of renewed interest in golfing, Sorensen and others said.
Already, however, Cory Thomas, may have caught a glimpse of the excitement to come.
The general manager of the Links at Riverlakes Ranch said he went to check on the course's driving range immediately after Woods' victory.
"There was almost no spots available," he said, adding that even Monday it's all anyone talks about.
"I think golf needs something like this," he said. "I think more kids are going to get involved with it."
Also Monday, by coincidence or possibly as a result of Woods' win, four students between the ages of 8 and 16 signed up for a summer golf program in Bakersfield.
Shelly Moore, who works as a golf psychologist for the program called Junior Golf Academy at Riverlakes, wasn't ready to declare the new enrollments were tied to Woods. But she said the program's students do look up to him.
"They're always excited about anything Tiger does," she said.
Sorensen said he has seen the beginnings recently of renewed interest in the sport. Now with Woods doing so well, he said it probably won't be long before greater numbers of golfers turn out at local courses to get in a few rounds.
"It’s going to be good for golf," he said. "It always is. When Tiger wins, it’s always good for golf.”
His brother, Chad Sorensen, head professional at Buena Vista Golf Course, said Tiger Woods is all that golf people talked about Monday.
"Are you kidding? Tiger Woods, the greatest player that ever played the game?" he asked.
He recalled how, when Woods was just making his name as a young champion more than 20 years ago, junior golfing did very well. The question is whether the latest "Tiger wave" translates to more young golfers out on the links, he said.
Many in the millennial generation have overlooked golf as a sport of interest, leading to declining participation. The hope of many in the sport is that the next generation will become interested.
"We’re hoping this is going to start a little bit of a wave to get back out there," Chad Sorensen said.
"Everyone was extremely excited" about Woods' come-from-behind story, he said. "We just hope we can get people who were on the fence about golf."
Thomas said he thinks there will be more children signing up for golf lessons because of Woods.
"I think the major effect will be kids," he said.