HBO’s new documentary Tiger explores the life and career of legendary golfer Tiger Woods, whose meteoric rise into super-stardom was matched by a dramatic fall from grace after his serial infidelity came to light in 2009. A national sensation, Woods was on TV hitting a golf ball from the age of 2 with the fierce encouragement of late father Earl Woods, with whom Tiger had an intensely close relationship until his death in 2006. In the years that followed Tiger’s cheating scandal, the end of his marriage to model Elin Nordegren, and a brief stint at a rehab facility for sex addiction, the public grappled with how Tiger had seemingly changed from the sweet young golf prodigy growing up in the spotlight to a brash superstar with an untold number of mistresses. And many began to point the finger at Tiger’s father Earl, who had his own history of infidelity, as a possible reason for why this change came about. According to another man from Tiger’s childhood, however, Earl was hardly the only bad influence.
PGA Director Joe Grohman takes part in HBO’s Tiger, available to stream now on HBO Max (which, by the way, has discounted subscription prices until Jan. 15). Lamenting his own potential role in influencing Tiger as a child, Grohman describes how he and Earl would frequently and flagrantly pick up women when they were around Tiger on the golf course, and made no attempt to hide the fact that they were cheating on their wives from him as a kid.
“Earl was a great great dad, but I don’t know how to smooth this one over. I assure you that we were not the best role models when it came to honoring your marriage,” Grohman says. “Earl had this little Winnebago and we’d let him teach on the range and he somehow would teach very attractive blonde women. I never figured out where he met these women and often, you know, after the lesson, they’d go into the Winnebago for cocktails.”
“And Tiger was at the course, you know, and I was just every bit as bad,” he continued. “For a long time, me and Earl were the two biggest male figures in his life, the two closest to him and here I am, chasing skirts and bringing them to the course and he’s seeing this. And I was married too at the time, and he’s seeing this. To have that kind of access to this child’s development and to expose him to that, I mean…yeah. Sorry, champ. Sorry.”
Tiger’s first serious girlfriend Dina Parr also takes part in the documentary and attests to the emotional effect that seeing his father’s infidelity had on Tiger, describing one distraught phone call she got from him when he was traveling for golf with his dad.
“He called me one time and I will never forget. He was sobbing on the phone, uncontrollably, I couldn’t even understand what he was saying, he was so upset,” she recounts. “He finally caught his breath and said, ‘my dad’s out again. He met this girl and they’re going out.’ The sound of Tiger’s voice was so upsetting…And his dad, I don’t think, really cared that he knew it. I think that also bothered him, like why would you not try to hide this from me? Why would you just let me see this?”
Tiger gave a televised statement in 2010 addressing his affairs, which had been made public knowledge starting with the National Enquirer exposing his affair with nightclub owner Rachel Uchitel.
“I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable,” he said, per E! News. “And I am the only person to blame. I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in.”
The documentary Tiger doesn’t seek to exonerate Tiger Woods. But it does suggest we look more closely at the circumstances that allowed him to both fly so high and fall so low.
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