SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — He has been with Tiger Woods by way of all of it.
By three U.S. Junior Amateurs victories, three U.S. Amateurs and an NCAA championship. By 81 PGA Tour wins. By 5 Masters, 4 PGA Championships, three U.S. Opens and three Open Championships. By the loss of life of Woods’ father, Earl. By Fluff, Stevie and Joey. By the accidents. By the off-the-course points. By the comeback.
Frank has been by way of all of it.
Wait … who’s Frank? He is simply essentially the most well-known headcover on the planet. Yeah, that Frank. Frank has grow to be as synonymous with Woods as his Sunday pink. He has been sitting atop Tiger’s bag for nearly 30 years.
“It is sort of taken its personal sort of form,” Woods stated.
However earlier than it was named Frank, earlier than it was given a character and Paul Giamatti’s voice in an advert marketing campaign, earlier than it starred in commercials, earlier than it had its personal clothes line, it was only a plush headcover offered at golf retailers by Jane Spicer, the founding father of Daphne’s Headcovers.
That is the place Kultida Woods, Tiger’s mom, discovered it.
“She wasn’t capable of go to loads of my newbie occasions and my dad was taking me. It was her manner of claiming that she’s at all times there with me regardless that she will’t be there. So, my mother has at all times been there with me regardless that she hasn’t been there bodily.”
She purchased Tiger his first tiger headcover when he was round 13 years outdated from the professional store on the Huge Canyon Nation Membership in Newport Seashore, California, the place Earl Woods was then an honorary member.
Sandy Huber, a professional at Huge Canyon since 1983, offered Kultida that first tiger headcover — which she purchased from Spicer — beginning an extended friendship with each. It additionally, unbeknownst to them, began what would grow to be a global phenomenon.
Woods had been utilizing a black and white headcover that he acquired whereas enjoying in a Southern California junior occasion. Woods liked it. When Kultida gave Tiger the tiger, he put it on and the remaining, as they are saying, is historical past.
However it turned greater than only a headcover to Tiger. Kultida hand sewed the phrases “Love At all times, Mother” on the again of the headcover in Thai, her native language.
“She wasn’t capable of go to loads of my newbie occasions and my dad was taking me,” Woods stated, including that she missed “quite a bit” of his necessary newbie and junior wins however has been in attendance for many of his main wins. “It was her manner of claiming that she’s at all times there with me regardless that she will’t be there. So, my mother has at all times been there with me regardless that she hasn’t been there bodily.”
Kultida began doing it within the late 1980s and has been hand stitching the phrase ever since, sending Tiger a brand new, hand embroidered headcover yearly. The outdated ones typically find yourself at as a chew toy for Tiger’s canine or go to charity, no matter Kultida needs to do with them. What has changed into an annual custom between Tiger and his mother has grow to be a “supply of motivation” for Tiger, his former caddie, Steve Williams stated.
Williams, who caddied for Tiger from 1999 to 2011, stated Woods seemed on the tiger headcover as a fortunate allure and thought it introduced “a optimistic vibe” in the beginning of every season.
Frank the Tiger has been with Tiger Woods from the start. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Photos
“Oh, my God, it is unbelievable,” Tiger stated. “She’s at all times been there for me.”
Whereas the tiger turned a bond between a son and his mom, it was born out of a love between the daughter and mom who created it.
Lengthy earlier than there was Frank, there have been simply tiger headcovers.
And earlier than them, there have been simply puppets.
Spicer began making and promoting puppets in 1979, when she was 16. One in all her prospects advised she additionally begin making headcovers. She was intrigued. With the assistance of her mom, she made simply sufficient headcovers to slot in a hat case she purchased at Goodwill. If she offered sufficient, her mom bribed her, she’d purchase Spicer a automobile.
Spicer’s first buyer was the Arizona Biltmore Golf Membership. The director of golf on the time, Pete Robbeloth, purchased her headcovers regardless of what Spicer known as a “awful gross sales pitch.” Her mom’s bribe labored. Spicer offered sufficient to earn a 1973 pink Volkswagen bug. However she did not cease there. She continued to make the headcovers with the assistance of her mom all through highschool and faculty — the place she offered the headcovers for beer cash. For years, although, the headcovers had been a facet enterprise to the puppets.
After graduating from faculty in 1985, Spicer spent the following six years traversing the nation, promoting the puppets at artwork festivals and crafts exhibits on weekends from Tempe to Austin to Aspen. In between exhibits, Spicer would cease at golf programs alongside the way in which. The extra golf retailers she visited, the extra she heard about what number of golfers had been utilizing her headcovers.
She did not assume something about it on the time. She was too busy constructing an organization. Spicer got here off the highway to give attention to the headcovers full time in 1991. By then, she had already began listening to about this one younger golfer, Eldrick Woods, who was fairly good and had her tiger headcover on his bag.
For years, the tiger was simply one other product in Spicer’s line of headcovers. It was designed based mostly on certainly one of her puppets.
When Spicer and her mom first designed the tiger, they drew the unique sketch on newspaper with a Sharpie, developing with the sample on their very own.
“That is what we thought a tiger seemed like,” Spicer stated. “That was our model of a tiger.”
However they did not get the paper delivered, in order that they’d ask their neighbors to reserve it so they may draw out their concepts.
When their sketch was performed, they’d sew a prototype along with scrap items of cloth. Then, over espresso each morning doubling as a collaboration session, they’d tweak it. After 4 or 5 variations, Spicer and her mother, Daphne, whom Spicer’s firm is known as after, discovered the tiger they needed.
“The design is additional particular as a result of my mother and I did it, and simply as a tiger on our line,” Spicer stated. “We had no concept that it could grow to be essentially the most well-known headcover on the planet.”
Cheering on @TigerWoods in the course of the Tiger versus @PhilMickelson match @Shadowcreek. Frank and I are excited! #Golf #TigerVSPhil pic.twitter.com/z3YTjaBcA2
— Jane Spicer (@DaphnesCovers) November 23, 2018
Spicer had the plan in her head. She and her mother would construct the enterprise collectively. Her mother would assist handle Spicer’s son after he was born whereas Spicer devoted each waking hour she may to the corporate.
Then every part modified.
In 1996, Spicer’s mother died after a sudden sickness. Spicer was misplaced. The subsequent 12 months was the “essentially the most horrific time” of her life, however in April 1997, Woods received the Masters and life modified once more.
“Swiftly right here was this design that I in all probability would have modified after which, bam, it was recognized globally,” Spicer stated. “So, I at all times felt prefer it was sort of like my mother serving to me by way of the grief as a result of I used to be so busy I could not grieve. I needed to run our firm.
“That made it additional particular.”
Spicer has redesigned or tinkered with virtually each certainly one of her different headcovers through the years. However not the tiger. She is honoring her late mom by leaving it because it has been for greater than 20 years.
“I am not touching it,” she stated. “I feel I did fairly properly with this one.”
Many would agree.
Woods’ final two caddies, Joe LaCava and Williams, stated nobody has tried to steal the headcover from Woods’ bag. LaCava stated folks simply need to contact it and pet it and Williams was supplied money for it “a number of instances.”
As soon as Woods started successful and, seemingly, did not cease for years, Spicer’s enterprise was, to say the least, good.
As a brand new, small enterprise proprietor, she wasn’t geared up nor did she know the right way to deal with the upcoming onslaught. There was the time she bought a name from a small golf store in California ordering 30,000 tiger headcovers. The particular person on the telephone stated they’d pay greater than Spicer charged to get “premium service” however they wanted them as quickly as potential. Spicer did not take the decision significantly and stated she’d want half of the fee up entrance. A day later, FedEx delivered a examine with extra zeros than she’d ever seen. However she had an issue. All her headcovers had been hand sewn. She wasn’t certain the order was doable.
It seems the order was for American Categorical, who, on the time, was certainly one of Woods’ sponsors. The corporate had used the small golf store to stay covert.
After Woods received the Masters in 1997, Spicer’s enterprise grew 400% in a single quarter. And it did not cease.
She was studying the right way to scale on the fly. She was studying the right way to be the corporate that made Woods’ headcover.
All of Spicer’s interactions with Kultida have been “very good, very well mannered, very heat.” There have been instances when Kultida known as Spicer on to ask for extra headcovers. Different instances, it will be a golf membership or a rep calling on behalf of Tiger and his mother. As soon as, although, that nearly did not work.
A name got here into Spicer’s workplace someday early in Tiger (headcover) Mania from somebody calling for Kultida. They wanted a tiger headcover for Tiger. The decision simply occurred to come back throughout a time when Spicer was utterly out of the tiger headcovers.
Tiger Woods’ mom, Kultida, left, used handy sew “Love At all times, Mother” in Thai on his tiger headcover. AP Photograph/Mark J. Terrill
The worker who picked up the telephone had one hand on her hips and was all however yelling into the telephone: “I do not care if her identify is Mrs. Woods. We have no tigers and she will’t have any.”
Spicer sprinted throughout the room and pulled the telephone out of her worker’s arms. Since then, Spicer has stored six tigers readily available simply in case Kultida wanted one.
The corporate began with simply her and her mom. Over the following 40 years, it has swelled to greater than 100 staff, Spicer stated, however now has leveled off at 20 with manufacturing in China and Indonesia. She began to fabricate abroad to maintain up with demand. She tried to simplify her enterprise as a lot as she may and went to a first-come, first-served mannequin. Alongside the way in which, Spicer began to observe increasingly of Woods’ tournaments and have become a fan of the person who was altering her life win by win.
“Our enterprise simply utterly modified,” she stated.
For years, Spicer had but to satisfy Woods, the person who, single-handedly, made her enterprise a global success. Partially, she did not need to. She by no means needed to really feel as if she had been imposing on his time. Since he had been gracious sufficient to make use of her headcover, she did not need to really feel as if she had been intruding. So she turned down quite a lot of alternatives to satisfy him.
Then, in 2015, Woods introduced he can be enjoying within the Phoenix Open. A mutual good friend instructed Woods that Spicer can be on the event and want to lastly meet him. He agreed on the spot and invited her to the driving vary. Spicer remembered Woods seeing her out of the nook of his eye, placing down his golf equipment and coming over to present her an enormous hug. He thanked her for supporting him, a sentiment Kultida has shared with Spicer repeatedly through the years, and one which Spicer finds humorous. Spicer says she is the one who must be doing the thanking.
The 2 talked concerning the headcover, canine and their youngsters. Additionally they took a photograph that Spicer despatched to her son, who instantly known as. Spicer did not decide up and the calls and texts continued, as she and Woods shared an excellent chuckle.
“He could not have been nicer,” she stated. “Simply heat and good and cozy and really beneficiant together with his time.”
Spicer began to get licensing offers and partnerships. Whoever Woods was endorsed by got here calling.
It was organized chaos round her.
At one level, she was on a four-month watch for the headcovers. As soon as, whereas she was offered out, she bought a name from one of many main golf membership firms that had already bought a “big” order to promote in Beirut. The person on the telephone began yelling at Spicer the second she picked up. He wanted extra, he stated, as a result of he had offered all of the headcovers to somebody on his flight who supplied twice as a lot as what he paid. Sorry, Spicer stated. He needed to go to the again of the road.
Spicer’s enterprise grew steadily, each domestically and internationally, from 1997 till 2009, when Woods’ non-public life turned public. She stayed constant along with her worth. The headcovers offered for $35 at professional retailers.
However then Woods’ off-the-course points coincided with the financial system taking a downturn, forcing Spicer to have a look at the worldwide golf market as a viable possibility. Luckily for Spicer, programs throughout Europe had been eagerly ready for the headcovers, she stated.
The headcover was fairly well-liked overseas, particularly in Asia, stated Williams, Woods’ former caddie.
“I believed it was nice how Frank turned well-liked when Tiger performed in Asia, particularly Japan,” Williams stated. “It was as if Frank was the attraction amongst the youthful followers.”
Within the years following 2009, Spicer did not see the spikes in gross sales that Woods offered. However her model was rising due to Woods. She now has greater than 200 touring professionals within the PGA and LPGA excursions, and not less than three Masters winners by her depend, together with Woods, Danny Willett and Bubba Watson. Amongst her different purchasers are Ernie Els, John Daly, Dustin Johnson, Chez Reavie, Robert Garrigus, Lydia Ko, Cheyenne Woods, Betsy King, Alena Sharp and Brittany Lincicome.
Then Woods started his comeback. Spicer noticed gross sales begin to awaken.
Jane Spicer and the person who made her firm — and Frank the headcover — well-known. Jane Spicer
Extra golf golf equipment had been asking so as to add just a few tigers to their orders. Then got here this 12 months’s Masters. Day-after-day all through the event, the calls stored coming.
Spicer knew what was about to occur.
She’d been by way of loads of Masters earlier than. Yearly, whether or not or not Tiger Woods had received — whether or not or not Woods had even performed — she noticed an uptick in gross sales the weekend the golf world ascended upon Augusta Nationwide.
However this 12 months was totally different. Spicer was ready.
Woods’ recreation had been on the rise. He had already received the Tour Championship on the finish of final season. The hype surrounding this Masters — he was wholesome and enjoying properly — was palpable.
Spicer knew she wanted to order extra tiger headcovers. A month earlier than this 12 months’s Masters, Spicer met along with her finance and technique groups, and instructed them she was planning to order “a bunch extra tigers.” Everybody else within the room balked. It was a untimely concept, they instructed her.
He’d received only one event. What if he bought injured? What if he missed the lower? They ran by way of all of the potential eventualities that would face Woods. Her CPA and enterprise adviser tried to speak her out of it. Spicer held her floor. She made “as many as we may probably promote.”
She was prepared.
Then Woods received, Spicer offered out of that batch, and he or she and her crew labored daily for 3 straight weeks.
Tiger (headcover) Mania was again.
The Monday after the Masters was her birthday and with it got here one of the best current she may’ve requested for: a Woods victory.
“He modified golf,” she stated. “Extra folks had been . Extra folks had been carrying headcovers. They had been displaying their character. There have been extra youngsters. There have been extra ladies. There have been extra males. Our market expanded, golf expanded.
“All that he did for golf was so nice.”
The journey — of Spicer, Tiger and Frank — has taken some unbelievable turns. As an example, someday early in Woods’ profession, Spicer confirmed as much as a fax hanging on her door. It was from Nike, which needed to start out a licensing take care of Spicer for the tiger headcover. Spicer learn it about six instances. She could not consider what was in entrance of her.
She readily accepted.
In Oregon, Nike’s golf crew, led then by Chris Mike, sat down with their advert company, Wieden+Kennedy to take heed to concepts for an upcoming marketing campaign from Jim Riswold, the agency’s inventive director. Among the many displays was one the place the tiger headcover is dropped at life.
It was the right option to work with Woods, Mike stated.
“The concept of making a foil, if you’ll, for Tiger, as a result of athletes aren’t actors and typically asking them to do an excessive amount of is a recipe for catastrophe,” Mike stated. “We needed to create one thing that gave Tiger the chance to have interaction and work together in a snug manner.”
Nike liked it. Tiger liked it. Spicer liked it.
Frank the Tiger was born.
“It was a simple concept to give you,” Riswold stated. “I imply, this character has been with him so long as anyone in his golf profession.”
Riswold stated deciding on the identify was “straightforward” as a result of Frank “bought straight to the purpose.” It was Riswold who additionally gave Frank his snarky character.
“I had issues, like, he was the one one who known as Tiger ‘Eldrick’ and would speak s— to him,” Riswold stated. “And the one option to get on Frank’s unhealthy facet is to name him a sock. ‘I am not a sock. I am a golf accent.'”
Frank reminded Woods of one other Riswold creation: Mars Blackmon.
“It was like my model of Mars Blackmon, how Spike [Lee] was capable of say one thing that Michael [Jordan] wasn’t capable of say,” Woods stated. “[Riswold] gave Frank a voice so Frank may say issues that I could not say.”
In all, 9 Frank commercials had been made in a 12 months. With the assistance of an animatronic tiger headcover made by the identical individuals who labored on MythBusters, Riswold stated, Frank was delivered to life. The robotic price Nike about $30,000 to $40,000 and was managed with a distant by any person about 15 toes away. All of the robotic tiger did was transfer its mouth and switch. However they led to some humorous moments, Mike stated.
Throughout filming in Orlando, Florida, Woods talked to robotic Frank as if he had been an actual particular person, Mike remembered. Someone sat simply off digital camera studying again Frank’s traces. The objective was to search out somebody to voice Frank who was witty and will convey Riswold’s phrases to present robotic Frank a character. Riswold stated the choice got here right down to Paul Giamatti, Michael Keaton and Larry David.
David was the front-runner, Riswold stated, however all he needed in return was to play golf with Woods. Riswold remembered Woods’ folks rejecting that request.
“That circle was fairly tight round that man,” stated Riswold, who putted and hit balls with Woods, which he known as extra “nerve-wracking” than standing on the primary tee of Pebble Seashore or at Merion “up towards the member’s patio.”
Giamatti was employed for the job.
“Simply that voice,” Riswold stated. “Plus his dad [A. Bartlett Giamatti] was the commissioner of baseball. And he is humorous. I imply, he simply nailed it. We did not should do any takes in any respect.”
Woods nonetheless has DVDs of Giamatti’s outtakes “which can be bleeped.”
“That is what makes it hilarious,” Woods stated. “It is like he is taking his personal character, which may be sort of enjoyable.”
The commercials featured some memorable moments and contours that also dwell on YouTube — and in Spicer’s home — most of which had been written by Riswold. In a single business, Frank is sitting subsequent to Woods at a counter, consuming a cola. Frank says: “You have been dinking them on the market currently,” a line Spicer and her household nonetheless use usually when somebody is not doing one thing they’re presupposed to.
On the shoots, Woods could not at all times preserve it collectively.
“He would anticipate a response,” Mike stated. “And he did an unbelievable job. I bear in mind on the time Tiger type of suspending the truth that Frank is a robotic with wires popping out of the underside of it and being managed by any person, and truly speaking to Frank as if he was his buddy.
“And I simply bear in mind laughing so arduous each time, there are a pair traces in these commercials, which had been type of the funnier traces and simply the way in which that the robotic and Tiger engaged and related was superior.
“It was actually, actually humorous to see in particular person.”
Frank has grow to be part of Woods, one thing greater than a logo of the golfer. It has grow to be an extension of him, his model and his world.
“It was at all times sort of cool,” Riswold stated. “You knew you had one thing.
“I made some folks smile.”
So, what would Frank say to Woods now, after successful the Masters and finishing his comeback?
“It is about time,” Riswold stated. “It is about time scorching shot.”
ESPN.com’s Michael Collins and Bob Harig contributed to this report.