Tiger's college girlfriend speaks out

Tiger’s college girlfriend speaks out

Folstrom is an advocate for Native American causes.
Judy Griesedieck/SI

Tiger Woods was my boyfriend for a year and a half while we were both undergraduates at Stanford. I’ve never spoken to the press about him; I’m not coming forward now for money or to advance any pathetic showbiz aspirations, but merely to stick up for a friend. I haven’t seen Tiger since the late ’90s, but I know who he is at his core because we were together during some of his most formative years. He was so human and cared so much about other people and the world around him. This may surprise some people, but Tiger was a great boyfriend.

I have so many fond memories of our time together. At that age Tiger had an amazing metabolism so we spent a lot of time eating. Our favorite restaurant was a Chinese joint in Mountain View; the guys there must have been golf fans because they always gave us free desserts, which was a big deal to us.

I walked many golf courses watching Tiger play, sometimes with his mother, Tida. I grew up on an Indian reservation in Minnesota, and I think Tida accepted me so readily because Tiger and I shared many of the same values. Earl and I talked a lot about politics and national affairs, and Earl often made me laugh so hard, my stomach muscles cramped. He loved to tease Tiger and me about our puppy love.

During our Southern California road trips Tiger and I spent a lot of time at the beach. We would steal a bottle of whiskey from Earl or I’d use my fake ID to buy a jug of wine, and we’d hang out and dream about the future. Tiger was very driven to be a great golfer, but he also talked a lot about wanting to make a larger contribution to society. Settling down was not a priority; Earl had drilled into Tiger that he should wait until his 30s to get married.

Our relationship ended when Tiger turned pro after his sophomore year. Becoming the first person in my family to earn a college degree was so important to me that I wasn’t willing to give up my studies to follow him. Like everyone else, I was shocked by the revelations about his infidelities. The Tiger I knew was loyal, devoted and self–controlled. I’m not naive, but I can say with certainty that he was faithful during the time we dated. The speculation that he’s being treated for sex addiction is surprising because we enjoyed a normal sexual relationship.

I don’t have any insight into how he led such a double life. I will say that Tiger had an ability to shut things out and compartmentalize his emotions. Even back then he felt enormous pressure to be Tiger Woods. Maybe this was his form of escape.

Obviously Tiger has made some big mistakes, but he’s apologized and seems to be trying to heal himself and his family. I hope the public will forgive him because he deserves a second chance. He’s a good person with a caring heart.

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