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Woods Returning to Georgia To Receive College Award

October 29, 1996 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) _ Tiger Woods, criticized for his sudden withdrawal from the Buick Challenge last month, will return to Georgia to attend an awards banquet that was canceled after he pulled out of the PGA event.

Woods was supposed to receive the Fred Haskins Award as the top college golfer for 1995-96 the night of Sept. 26, after the first round of the tournament at Calloway Gardens.

Woods, who was invited to the Buick Challenge on a sponsor exemption, dropped out of the event the day before it started, citing exhaustion, and left without speaking to the media or tournament officials.

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Several PGA players were critical of Woods, saying his sudden pullout showed immaturity _ especially since it forced a cancellation of the Hawkins award banquet.

Hughes Norton, senior vice president of International Management Group, Inc., which represents Woods, told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that Woods is planning to attend the rescheduled Haskins dinner on Nov. 11.

``We’ve been talking about it since the day he withdrew,″ Norton said. ``The award means a lot to him. ... He was very interested in pursuing this and wouldn’t let it rest until we got it done.″

Since withdrawing from the Buick Challenge, Woods has won twice on the PGA Tour _ at Las Vegas and the Disney Classic in Orlando.

The Haskins Award, named in honor of the former Country Club of Columbus golf pro Fred Haskins, is billed as the ``Heisman Trophy of golf.″ The award, selected by a panel of college players, coaches and members of the media, is given annually to the top male college golfer.

Woods, who won the award for his play as a sophomore at Stanford, wrote a guest column for the Oct. 11 edition of GolfWorld and apologized for any hurt feelings among the Haskins Commission members.

``I didn’t even think about the dinner,″ he wrote. ``I realize now that what I did was wrong. Even though I know I did the right thing in getting away, I should have stayed long enough to attend the dinner and then gone home. But hindsight is 20-20.″

More than 200 guests were invited to the original dinner.

Bob Berry, executive director of the Buick Challenge, insisted that his tournament held no grudges against Woods for pulling out last month.

``Tiger called Sunday, the last day of the tournament, and apologized,″ Berry said. ``It was a fairly short conversation. He made amends and I accepted it. We don’t have any bone to bury.″