A TIGER PAUSE FOR CHILD OF TRAGEDY

By TODD VENEZIA

June 12, 2002 --

Tiger Woods amazed the crowd on the fairways at the U.S. Open yesterday - and then helped give a special treat to a very special boy.

Christopher Otten, 12, was among a group of 28 children of New York City firefighters lost on Sept. 11 who were given VIP passes to yesterday's practice round on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park.

The East Islip boy happened to be in the right place at the right time - visiting the media tent with chaperones who had broken off from the main group.

That's when, just after 1 p.m., Christopher and his companions got word Tiger was just finishing up an interview and that maybe, just maybe, he would get to meet the golfing great.

The tension grew as Christopher - who lost his dad, Michael, a firefighter with Ladder 35 in Manhattan - stood outside clutching a U.S. Open hat he hoped the beloved linksman would soon sign.

Inside, Woods was musing on the effects of the World Trade Center attack and his feelings about a U.S. Open in New York.

"I think that every player certainly was impacted by what happened," he said. "But the people who live here . . . have gone through just a heck of a lot more than we could ever have imagined."

After that, Tiger left the tent hounded by the press and a mob of onlookers.

"I can't imagine what it must be like to have that much attention," said Guy Warren, a New York firefighter who was escorting the children.

At first, it seemed like Woods would be too busy to stop as he paused to do a few brief, cheesy interviews. Christopher's heart sank.

But then Woods changed his mind, signed the youngster's hat and posed for a picture with him.

"It was amazing," the boy said. "I just told him, 'thank you.' "

When asked if the other kids would be jealous, he just shrugged and said, "maybe."

But according to Warren, they shouldn't be feeling too left out.

He said the kids were invited for the day when New York State officials and the USGA heard about a charity golf tournament organized by the Uniformed Firefighters Association that will be held July 15 in Lake Success, L.I.

The kids are going to be caddies so they were invited to a real tournament to see what it's like, Warren said.

In addition to Woods, Greg Norman signed autographs for the kids and pro golfer Ben Crane taught them about different golf clubs.

"It was so generous and so nice," Warren said.


http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/50187.htm


KING OF THE KIDS:
Christopher Otten meets golfing great Tiger Woods at U.S. Open practice yesterday. Christopher's dad, Michael, was a firefighter who died on Sept. 11.
- NYP: Francis Specker