Jan 7, 2010, 12:30 PM EDT
Until Tiger Woods decides to re-enter public life, the only touchstone we have to the world’s greatest golfer is Canh Oxelson. Call him Tiger Woods’ avatar; a 38-year-old educator from Los Angeles who is the dean of students at a prep school on weekdays, and on weekends makes handsome extra cash as a Woods impersonator. It’s a side career that has taken him all over the world for corporate and charity events, including St. Andrews in Scotland. But these days, fame is a little bittersweet, as one might imagine for someone literally in Tiger’s shoes.
Here’s my interview with Oxelson, which includes his thoughts on teaming with an Elin Nordegren double, and if he’s been offered any roles in Tiger Woods parody videos.
What is the most unusual event you’ve played?
There have been plenty, but one of the best was making an appearance at St. Andrew’s in Scotland. It’s one thing to get mobbed by tourists on the course, but it’s a whole other thing to go on a pub crawl with the locals. They love Tiger!
At what point did you start appearing as Tiger Woods? When and where was your first time?
My first appearance as Tiger Woods was in 1997. It was a golf-themed 50th birthday party where I was asked to roast the woman of honor.
What’s the most amusing thing that’s happened during one of your appearances as Tiger?
After twelve years of doing this, I have hundreds of crazy stories but two of the most amusing involved women: At an event in New Jersey, a young woman once asked me to sign her breast. I didn’t. And at a Palm Springs corporate event, a woman whispered in my ear that she’d been having Tiger Woods fantasies….
Had the economy effected your appearance schedule before Thanksgiving, 2009?
The current economy did have a slight effect my appearance schedule in 2009. Throughout the year, it seemed as though both non- and for profit companies had begun to scale back on their golf-related corporate and charity events. Ultimately, it’s not something I worry about too much. This look-alike work has turned out to be a great way to pay off my graduate school loans, but it certainly isn’t my full-time career. I have a masters degree in educational policy and have really enjoyed my work in education.
Ever think of trying to find an Elin lookalike to work with you at events?
I’ve definitely thought about it. I’m told that the best part might actually be the casting call. Surrounded by Swedish models? That couldn’t be a bad way to spend a day.
What’s your general reaction to the way the media has handled Tiger’s troubles up until now?
The media are just doing their job. At some point their attention will move in another direction, but for now, I understand the storm surrounding Tiger. I wish it wasn’t that way, but in many ways this is very media-driven time that we’re in. If you think of the most famous athletes in history, people like Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan, their imperfections were covered, but not in the same way that we’re witnessing with sports stars today. As great as Ali and Jordan were, I wonder how they would’ve handled life in a blog-heavy, TMZ, Twitter kind of world.
Do you get mistaken for Tiger when you’re not wearing golf clothes? What do you tell people who want autographs?
It doesn’t happen as much when I’m not wearing golf clothing, but if I’m rockin’ the Nike cap and a golf shirt, it’s definitely a possibility. Tiger is so well known that people don’t expect to see him shopping by himself at Nordstrom or pulling in to gas up his Acura at the local Chevron. Still, I always get second looks and shout outs from people walking by, especially here in L.A. As far as autograph seekers, I never actually say that I’m Tiger. When asked, I usually smile and deflect a little. Keep’em guessing. When I sign, it’s usually “Tiger II” which is scribbled so quickly that you can’t read it all that well anyway.
What is the next Tiger event you have lined up?
I’m doing a photo shoot next week. I can’t reveal the client at this point, but she has done lots of compelling work during her career. It should be entertaining!
How is your golf game?
I’m a Dean of Students at a well-known prep school in L.A. Since I have a full-time career as an educator I don’t have a ton of time to work on my game, but I do get out on the course every now & then. When I get it going in the summers, I’m usually shooting in the low 90s. I haven’t broken 88 yet, but if there’s a golf pro out there who wants to give some lessons, I’m game!
Have people tried to hire you for Tiger parody videos?
Since November, almost all of the job offers have been for parodies, but I’m trying to be careful. Tiger’s down right now, but I’m really not interested in piling on the guy. No need to kick someone while they’re down. It’s just not my style.
When the alleged mistresses began surfacing, did you think that would help or hinder your Tiger appearances?
I’ve tried to take the high road throughout my look-alike career so I was pretty sure that it would hinder my appearances. Fortunately, the look-alike work isn’t my main source of income. If I was more willing to do some of the crazier stuff, this situation would probably be a gold mine.
How can people contact you?
My email address is email@example.com. People can also find me through my website: http://www.tigersdouble.com
Darren Rovell at CNBC’s SportsBiz has a great post on Oxelson here.
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