Tiger Woods is not the only swinger in the club
It was the quintessential clean-cut gentleman’s game. Or so it seemed until
Tiger Woods’ sexual escapades exposed golf’s sleazy underbelly. And he is
far from the only offender
In the sumptuous hospitality suite of a swanky golf hotel hosting the
Andalucia Open, Richard “Boxie” Boxall, ex-pro and much-loved TV
commentator, is chortling. We are chatting about the disgraced Tiger Woods,
ahead of his scheduled return to professional golf at the Masters in
Augusta. It is one of the world’s most prestigious tournaments with a
seven-figure first prize and a television audience of more than 50m. Boxie,
an ebullient spirit, can hardly contain himself.
“I mean, what would you say if you were Tiger’s partner at Augusta and you
walk out to meet him on the first tee?” He hiccups, his substantial frame
shaking with mirth.
“How’s tricks?” Snort. “Been up to anything recently?” Hah! “How’s the
wife?” He chuckles again. “There’s just nothing you can say that works.
I’ve been thinking about that moment quite a lot. How could you look him in
For a moment, Boxall’s gaze goes glassy, as he stares into the far
distance, out of the dining room window, beyond the lurid green of the
fairways to where the breakers crash on the long grey beach. And then he
shrugs and turns back to his lunch.
- Nike launches sombre Tiger Woods advert
- Source reveals Woods thinking on mea culpa
- Magnanimous Westwood: ‘Phil won it fair and square’
Since Hurricane Tiger swept through the golf world last year, nothing is
quite what it was.
Suddenly, all that talk of “woods”, “irons”, “birdies” and “holes-in-one” —
and let’s not even go there on swinging — have a whole new meaning. Tiger
finally lived up to his name. The sedate, corporate, deeply unsexy public
image of golf was shattered. The official line on all of this was summed up
for me by one golf pro: “We thought Tiger had a one-track mind… now we know
it was a two-track.”
Even if you are entirely uninterested in golf, it has been impossible to
avoid the sexploits of Tiger Woods. He was once the ultimate clean-cut
icon, whose 14 major championship victories made him, according to Forbes,
the first billiondollar sportsman. These days he is better known as a sex
maniac, whose umpteen bosomy blonde mistresses have not just kissed and
told but sung saga-length songs to the world’s tabloids detailing his
multifarious sexual marathons.
It seems Tiger had a type and a modus operandi. “Woods wouldn’t know how to
book an airline ticket or a hotel room. Since he was in nappies he’s had
teams of people doing that for him,” one insider told me. “He had fixers in
his entourage who would recruit the girls and set up the rendezvous; a
series of middle men would have made all the arrangements.”
The girls explained how, having been picked out in a club, or restaurant,
they would be told to appear at a certain hotel room at a certain time,
booked under a fake name. Tiger would then appear through a connecting
door. The mistresses tended to be porn stars or nightclub hostesses,
waitresses and lingerie models. Pretty well all were blonde and busty with
names like Jaimee, Jamie and Mindy; many were contextualised by the adult
films they’d starred in (Joslyn James was a star of Big Breasted Nurses and
My Sex Teacher #12). Reading their tales, it sounds as if Woods, rather
than just switching on the hotel porn channel, acted out his favourite
scenarios for real.
Tiger, according to these women, had “needs”; superstar-athlete “needs”
that had to be satiated (a couple of the mistresses described him as a sex
addict). Some saw providing this service for the world’s most famous golfer
as an honour, a big name to be chalked up on the bed post. Other lovers
expected to “see the green” (one American madam claimed he paid her $60,000
to provide the ladies). A sad few were confused enough to think their
couplings were “love”.
Tragically, one mistress claims to have got pregnant twice in the three
years she saw him.
“He never used protection, it was never mentioned.” Grimly, both times this
happened, Tiger’s wife was also pregnant.
Ah yes, his wife.
It was when Mrs Tiger Woods, a former nanny and model from Sweden called
Elin Nordegren, found out about his extracurricular activities that Tiger’s
world unravelled. On November 27, 2009, Woods crashed his car into two
kerbs, a row of shrubs, a hydrant and a tree outside his home in Orlando,
Florida. The police thought there had been a row. Tiger had a cut mouth and
a bloody face and, because of suspicions of domestic violence, Elin Woods
was not allowed to ride in the ambulance with her husband. (There was a
golf club by the car. She claimed she’d been whacking the car to try and
free him.) Mrs Woods also gave the police two bottles of pills Tiger had
taken before getting in the car, one of which was the painkiller Vicodin.
It looks as though Woods liked his prescription drugs.
Several of his mistresses mentioned he took the sleeping tablet Ambien
before having sex — one of its side-effects is a lowering of sexual
inhibition. This sordid scenario seems a world away from the immaculately
manicured grounds of the Parador de Malaga Golf complex. I have come here
to the Andalucia Open to find out whether Tiger’s behaviour is a one-off,
or par for the course in professional golf.
“I’m not surprised at all,” one player told me in a moment of rare candour
after I’d promised anonymity. “They’re all at it. I know loads who are
worse than Tiger, they’re just not so famous, so no-one talks about it.
There’s a rule, a code of omerta: what happens on tour, stays on tour.”
There are some spots which are well known for bad behaviour: Thailand,
Malaysia, Amsterdam and eastern Europe. “In those places the lads just go
berserk,” the player said. This was confirmed to me by a veteran journalist
who covered the European Tour, a circuit of 48 tournaments over 49 weeks
held everywhere from Glasgow to Dubai and including the Andalucia Open.
“Eighty per cent of the caddies are brothel hands, they know one in every
city. Of course there are some honourable husbands and boyfriends, but for
the rest? I shudder to think what they are taking home. There’s a minority
of the players who will go with the caddies on these excursions, I’d say 5%
of them: they know who they are. Some of the top ones are at it, the ones
who get a taste for it.
“There are those who prefer to pay,” a player adds. “And for the rest,
there are always girls at these tournaments. Sometimes they are the drivers
of the courtesy cars, or they are with the management companies, or with
the sponsors or promoters. At the end of some tournaments there’ll be girls
at the final green, asking if you’d like them to take you on a tour round
their city, or hang out. If you want to get laid there’s usually an
“Whether you are Tiger Woods or any other player,” another pro told me,
“being on a golf course in front of an audience is like being on a stage.
You feel like you’re somebody, you have a swagger, you’re a someone and
girls can sense that. It also kind of enables you to make an approach, you
feel like you have a right.”
Standing by the practice green at the Andalucia Open I see the “swagger”
made flesh. The golfers are like peacocks, their buttocks high and firm,
their shoulders broad. In their colourful sweaters, buff chinos and white
golf shoes they reek of alpha-male machismo. I can almost smell the whiff
of droit de seigneur coming off them. Each pro (and these are some of the
top 202 players who constitute the European Tour, one of the sport’s most
esteemed competitions) is surrounded by his team.
There is the golfer’s “bitch” — his caddy, who is usually either older,
younger or fatter and wears trainers rather than golf shoes. Caddies do the
menial stuff: heaving the bag, replete with player’s name and sponsor logo
round the course, buying sandwiches, or squatting at the far side of the
hole, gazing raptly as the player buries yet another putt. Also part of the
cluster is a manager, often young and also slick, with a diary and file
full of sponsor bumph. In a few cases there are wives or girlfriends, all
skinny and most blonde, like lower-rent copies of the gorgeous Mrs Woods.
Golf, like all professional sport, is an immensely competitive world: every
shot, every drive, every putt is ranked. Only the top 115, calculated by
the prize money they have won that year, stay on the European Tour. Each
tournament on the tour follows the same rhythm: Tuesday (arrive); Wednesday
(pro-am tournament); Thursday and Friday the pros play 18 holes and the top
60 make the “cut” — that is qualify for the tournament proper where, on
Saturday and Sunday, everyone who plays wins: prizes go from around $2,000
to more than $1m. The pressure is intense and the money is massive: several
of the top players have their own private jets.
“Sure, you make friends with other players on tour,” one pro explained.
“You might hang out with them a lot — remember we are on the circuit for
more than 40 weeks a year. But once you are out there it is every man for
When you are on top, he explained, “the high is amazing — but when your
game is going badly, being on the tour is the loneliest place in the world”.
I stayed at the players’ hotel, an ugly towerblock in Torremolinos, where
top golfers lurked cheek-by-jowl with grey-rinse couples tea-dancing to
gruesome cabaret. Glamorous? I don’t think so. There was no WiFi in the
rooms, so big-name golfers sat around in the lobby with their laptops, or
texted frantically on their BlackBerrys. I watched a few who had stayed in
calling home: their faces lit up while they talked to their families, and
fell when, with that last “love you, bye then”, the realisation that they
were far away and all alone set in.
Churchill said of champagne: “In victory you deserve it, in defeat you need
it.” In the old days, as Richard Boxall told me, “We’d drink a bit, yeah.
Go out with the boys, particularly if you’d missed the cut. Golf’s the only
game where you leave home, pay your flight, pay your caddy, pay your hotel,
so you’re, say, £2,000 down before you start. Then, if you don’t make the
cut, you’re earning nothing, but you can’t get home till Sunday. So you’d
drown your sorrows. It’s all different now. There’s so much more money at
stake that everyone takes their health and fitness much more seriously.”
“It’s true,” one young player confirmed. “There used to be a serious
boozing culture, but these days everyone is much more serious about the
game, so they don’t drink much. But believe me, there is just as much
shagging. Maybe more.”
It makes sense, really. If you are a professional athlete, you can’t drink
much or take drugs; you watch your weight, sleep well and eat carefully. So
what’s left if you’re a young man who wants a kick? Sex. And lots of
Now this, of course, is not a one-way street. Golfers, like footballers,
with their high wages and toned torsos, are not short of offers. I met some
extremely glamorous expat Marbella housewives — all rhinestone, strappy
high heels and Versace dresses — at Old Joy’s piano bar in Puerto Banus
(where the multimillionaires park their yachts) who told me it was a bit of
a game for them to hook up with a golfer. “I know a few who have done it,”
one laughed. “We prefer golfers to footballers, they are more polite.”
One player told me how he met a girl coming back on a plane from a
tournament a couple of months ago. He told her he was a golf pro and she
immediately suggested they join the mile-high club. Although already a
member, he thought, why not? Though he admits to being slightly freaked out
when he came out and her friend asked if he would make her a member, too.
“There are limits,” he joked, “and she wasn’t as fit as her mate.”
The world of the professional golf tour is unmistakably male, and as a
female interloper I felt uncomfortable. The tension of the tournament, the
aloofness of the “king of the jungle” pros, the cliquishness, the reserve,
made me feel nervous, as if I were about to make a very public mistake.
Maybe that’s how it feels to be a player.
In the sunshine on Tuesday afternoon, I fell into conversation with a
blonde by the practice bunker. Her name was Georgina Brown, the student
girlfriend of the new golf sensation Sam Hutsby. Hutsby is a 21-year-old
Brit who just finished second at “Qualifying School”, the gruelling
competition with a six-round final. Doing well at Qualifying School is one
way to gain what is known as a “tour card”. A “card” for the European Tour
gives you the right to join the big boys. But it is a temporary pass: only
the top prize-money earners stay on the tour; every year, the bottom few
are relegated from the competition, while the top 20 from another
lesser-ranked competition, the Challenge Tour, are promoted.
A keen player herself, Georgina was bred to the game: her father was a golf
pro and her mother a caddy. “My mum got into all sorts of trouble for
wearing hotpants as his caddy in the 1970s,” Brown laughed. Unlike the
other girlfriends “who tend to be in the shops or on the beach” (the ones I
spotted around were uniformly rockingly gorgeous), she was interested in
the game, not just the fame. It’s a tough life, she said, describing how
she regularly dragged Hutsby away from the course as darkness fell: his
life was practice, practice, practice.
As befits such a male world, locker-room humour reigns. I got a taste of it
when I arrived to inspect the state-of-the-art medical unit that travels
with (and is paid for by) the European Tour with its top physios, special
golf doctors, state-of-the-art gym, ultrasound. These guys’ bodies are
multimillion-pound winning machines producing the biggest kinetic force of
any sportsmen in any sport. If they go wrong, they need to be put right,
quick. Anyway, I opened the door of the lorry to be greeted by four very
famous, practically naked golfers, being worked on by the physios. “Come
and check us out, we’re all ready for you,” one shouted, to loud guffaws. I
decided to return at a quieter moment.
The laddish humour lends itself to all manner of pranks: one player, who
had had rather an active off-course tournament, “found his wood smothered
in lubricant with a condom over the top”, laughs a friend. John Daly, the
US golf “wild thing”, has been the bane of the PGA tour Stateside for
years. Recently the PGA was forced to publish a 456-page dossier of his
hellraising: it reveals he was fined £65,000 and received seven orders to
get treatment for his alcohol problems, was sent to jail to sober up on one
occasion, trashed a hotel room, brawled with other players, and once
smashed a golf ball off a beer can offered to him by the singer Kid Rock
during a pro-am tournament. These days, Daly sings songs like All My Exes
Wear Rolexes — about his three wives — at packed gigs. He says he’s had
more groupies than a rock band.
Lauren St John is a cool-looking blonde who, as The Sunday Times golf
correspondent, was the only female reporter who covered the European Tour
full-time throughout the 1990s — and wrote a book about it called Shooting
at Clouds. During that time, she saw it all and was on the receiving end of
endless passes and laddish behaviour. Her worst moment came when she went
up to a player’s room to interview him. “I was setting up my tape recorder
when he emerged out of the shower naked but for a towel and lunged at me. I
was very frightened and eventually managed to calm him down and convince
him I was not interested. Then he burst into tears and told me his wife
didn’t understand him. I was very relieved to get away.”
Another low was when a senior US tour player claimed to St John that when
bored on a flight, he would cut a hole in the bottom of his meal tray,
stick his member through it and then call the stewardess and say: “There’s
something wrong with my mushroom.”
“Many of the players sleep around to a greater or lesser degree,” she
confirms. “They are fit young guys, there are lots of women around who
fling themselves at golfers. They aren’t interested in golf, but they like
the money and the lifestyle. And the thing about being a golfer is, you
have plenty of time and opportunity. There are lots of legitimate reasons
why you wouldn’t be answering your phone: you can be on the course, in the
gym, with a sponsor or manager. At some point in every day a golfer will be
on his own in the hotel room and temptations happen.”
So Tiger is by no means the only golfer swinging it about a bit. The
players know it, the caddies know it, the managers know it. But until now
the seamier side of professional golf has remained very much hidden. Golf
is a serious cash cow, worth around $195 billion to the US economy alone,
and businesses love it because of the wealth of its fan base. During
Tiger’s ascendancy, he earned $93m in prize money and this had a massive
trickle-down effect for the rest of the pack: in 1996 only nine players on
the US tour earned $1m. In 2009, 91 golfers did. But Tiger’s fall and the
recession have both affected revenues: corporate sponsors pay around $10m
for a title sponsorship on the main PGA tour in America. Traditionally, the
biggest sponsors have been financial services and car manufacturing, but
these days such companies are increasingly wary of splashing large amounts
of cash on flash corporate beanos. Tiger personally lost the sponsorship of
Accenture (motto: High Performance. Delivered), Gatorade and AT&T (the
latter alone was reckoned to be worth $8m).
In Europe, golf drives tourism and top companies have found the sport to be
an excellent way of targeting the aspirational, predominantly middle-aged
white managers who, let’s face it, make up the bulk of golfers, even if the
era of lawful discrimination by golf clubs against women (and in the US,
blacks) is finally over.
Golf is still a pass to social acceptance; with its rankings and snobberies
the game is all about status. It has more rules, in more minutiae, than
almost any other sport. Why else do men still spend around £20,000 to join
prestigious clubs like Sunningdale? Or hanker after the exclusive
cliquishness of clubs like Swinley Forest, where the waiting list is closed.
In America, businessmen, presidents and movie stars play golf, and the
social cachet of being a member of the “country club” would make Hyacinth
Bill Deedes, a legendary golf writer, always said you can tell more about a
man in three hours on a golf course than anywhere else. Perhaps that’s why
businessmen use it to size each other up when making a deal. For corporate
man, whether on the up, or at the top, the golf course is synonymous with
status, schmoozing and business: the top food, smart hotels and exeat from
the wife required for a boys-together-bonding golf trip are all part of the
appeal of the ultimate power club that golf represents.
“Golf is all about money,” explained Maria Acacia, who runs the Spanish end
of the European Tour. For all their sporting prowess, many top
professionals are sponsored by corporations not for their brand value but
because having a few golf pros on the corporate payroll means you can offer
the ultimate treat — a round with a golfing hero — to a client you are
trying to woo. No players are exempt. At the Andalucia Open, I watched
Spanish golfing legend Miguel Angel Jimenez play in the pro-am.
Jimenez, replete with cigar, paunch, yellow jersey, cap and knockout
charisma, endured 18 holes playing with three businessmen, accompanied by
their wives and hangers-on. Like a performing seal, he posed with the
ladies for pictures, and painstakingly talked the (pretty useless) blokes
through their swings. I’m sure he loathed every minute of it. The point is
though, that he is a pro, a professional: paid to play. He is a commodity.
Just like Tiger. And his women.
When Tiger made his cringey televised apology earlier this year, he said
sorry to his wife and his sponsors for letting them down. He never
expressed any regret for the pain he’d caused his mistresses. It was as if
they were toys to be used and discarded, as if the fact they might have
feelings too never crossed his mind.
“The one time out of the whole year and a half I was with Tiger I asked
him, ‘Can you please help me out?’ ” said one of Woods’ girls, Las Vegas
lingerie model Jamie Jungers. “I didn’t give him a dollar amount, or say,
‘Can you buy me a house?’ I wasn’t specific, I just said, ‘Can you help me
out?’ He said, ‘I can’t.’ I thought he must be joking. I was already
embarrassed to ask. And that’s when I told him. That’s how much I mean to
you, and I can’t do this any more… I loved him. I still love him. But I
didn’t even get a birthday card. I got nothing out of this relationship but
a broken heart.”
As the world of golf hugs Tiger back to its multibillion-dollar bosom,
let’s spare a thought for the women he left behind.