Tiger Woods' Debut as a Professional Golfer

The 1996 Milwaukee Open is where Woods first played after turning pro

Tiger Woods was the center of attention when he made his pro debut at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open.
Tiger Woods was the center of attention when he made his pro debut at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open. J.D. Cuban/Getty Images

When and where did Tiger Woods make his pro debut? Woods first played as a professional golfer at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open, played at Brown Deer Park Golf Course in the Milwaukee suburb of Glendale.

The tournament began on Aug. 29, 1996—so that's the date Woods hit his first golf shots as a professional golfer—and ended on Sept. 1, 1996.

So where did Woods finish in his professional debut? In a tie for 60th place. Let's run through more of the details of Woods' pro debut.

How Woods Got to the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open

On Sunday, Aug. 25, 1996, amateur golfer Tiger Woods won the U.S. Amateur Championship. He became the first golfer to win the men's U.S. Am three consecutive times.

At 20 years old, Woods decided it was time to turn pro. He accepted a sponsor invitation to play in the Greater Milwaukee Open. Two days later on Tuesday of GMO tournament week, Woods announced via press release he was turning pro.

And one day before the tournament started, on Wednesday, Woods held his famous "Hello, world" press conference—attended not just by golf and sports media, but by national news outlets and entertainment journalists.

Woods, the biggest golf phenomenon since Jack Nicklaus, turning pro was a big deal. And the Greater Milwaukee Open was set for his pro debut.

But here's a fun fact: Even though Woods had just signed endorsement deals worth around $40 million, he had to borrow the tournament's $100 entry feel from instructor Butch Harmon.

Woods' Scores in the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open

In Woods' first round as a pro golfer, he carded a score of 4-under 67. A pretty good start. But that same day, Nolan Henke shot 62, so Woods was already five strokes off the lead.

Woods' first shot as a pro? A 336-yard drive that found the fairway on the first hole.

In Round 2, Woods shot 69 to stand at 6-under 136, eight strokes behind the leaders. But he did make the cut.

A third-round 73 was his worst score of the tournament, and he finished with a 68 in the final round. Woods' total score was 7-under 277, tied for 60th place. That was 12 strokes behind the winner, Loren Roberts (who beat Jerry Kelly in a playoff).

Afterwards, Woods had this to say about his professional debut:

"Over all, I think the week was a lot of fun. With all that happened, turning pro, all the other things, I felt I was able to play pretty good. I just couldn't make any putts."

Another First: Tiger's First Ace as a Pro

Tiger didn't win his first pro tournament, but he did something spectacular nonetheless: He made a hole-in-one. It happened in the final round. Woods used a 6-iron to ace the par-3 14th hole from 188 yards.

Said Woods: "I told my caddie, 'I guess since I can't make anything on the greens I might as well hole something from off them.'"

How Much Money Did Woods Make in his Pro Debut?

Woods' first paycheck as a professional was for $2,544. A humble start for a man who went on to become golf's first billion-dollar earner. But, then, Jack Nicklaus only earned $33.33 in his pro debut.

Woods' Winning Ways Began Shortly

So Woods finished 60th in his professional debut at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open. His first Top 10 finish came two weeks later the Quad City Classic, where he tied for fifth place. His first Top 3 finish was the following week, at the B.C. Open (tied for third).

And Woods' first win happened at the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational, which concluded on Oct. 6, 1996. Around six months later, Woods dominated the 1997 Masters. And the rest is history.