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12.04.09

The Secret World of Golf Groupies

Tiger Woods isn’t the only golfer with carousing issues. Retired players and current caddies tell Gerald Posner about the game inside the real PGA: The “Party Groupie Association.”

Tiger Woods isn’t the only golfer with carousing issues. Retired players and current caddies tell Gerald Posner about the game inside the real PGA: The “Party Groupie Association.” Plus, Posner on exclusive details of Tiger's new prenup.

The shock surrounding the Tiger Woods revelations this past week had a lot to do with his carefully generated squeaky-clean image. But almost as much the game and culture he came from—golf, with its elitist, country club provenance and paunchy, white, middle-aged enthusiasts. At the professional level, however, there’s a secret underworld not unlike many other major league sports: a Daily Beast investigation turned up groupies, carousing and wild sex as a central element for many players on the PGA Tour.

I spoke to eight retired golfers, current caddies, and ex-PGA workers. All spoke on the condition of anonymity. In the cases of the former players, some earn attendance fees for certain charity events or have good friends who are still playing, while each of the others whom I interviewed have continuing business relationships with the PGA or earn income from tournaments that they are not willing to risk by going public.

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These sources recounted stories of “hounds” or “wild men” inside the small professional fraternity. One of the names that came up the most: John Daly. Some of the stories are well known, such as when he passed out drunk at Hooters or showed up at one tournament with scratches on his face from an angry wife (he’s on his fourth marriage). What isn’t publicly known is that in 2006, Daly’s autobiography originally included several torrid adult-only escapades. Sources say that business advisors thought the material far too racy, even for Daly, and talked the golfer out of it. Whole sections were cut from the first draft—including references to threesomes, and his then-wife Sherrie installing cameras on his tour bus to deter sex with groupies.

As with the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball, golfers like Daly log a lot of time on the road, away from families, ensconced in deluxe hotel suites. A top golfer might do up to 20 one-week tournaments a year.

More important, there’s no shortage of temptation. With players having to earn at least $500,000 annually to keep their professional status, it’s little wonder that some women attracted to athletes might find their way to a golf tournament instead of a basketball game. The players even have a name for these women: PGA, or Party Groupie Association.

If a player finds a girl interesting, it's the caddy who might actually make the contact. "I've been told 'Look around the ropes,'" says one caddie. "'See who is easy on the eyes.'"

According to the ex-players and the caddies, the simplest ones, and usually the newest, are so-called “gallery girls,” the prettiest girls at the tournament who get prominent placement at the front line of the ropes that set off the spectators from the players. If a player finds a girl interesting, it’s the caddy who might actually make the contact.

“I’ve been told ’Look around the ropes,’” says one caddie. “’See who is easy on the eyes.’”

Caddies frequently pull the prettiest girls out of the autograph line, often offering a private chat with the pro. The caddy then often serves as the go-between. Players never give out their telephone number or contact information, instead leaning on the caddy as a trusted arranger. It partly explains why some caddies get paid so well—often, with a percentage of the winnings—to carry a bag and judge breaks on the green. For instance, Steve Williams, who is Tiger’s caddy, has been with him since 1999; Tiger even attended Williams’ 2005 wedding. Their financial arrangement is secret, but it’s obviously generous: Williams has been able to start his own charitable foundation to help junior golfers in his native New Zealand.

But most of the girls who hang out looking to bed a golfer don’t wait on the fairways. Tournaments are a multi-day affair and walking around the course after a desired target isn’t the best way to land him.

“Some of the girls become tournament volunteers,” one retired player tells me. “That way they can run errands, or drive the players to the driving range or other places. It’s the best chance for a one-on-one.”

Others who are more versed in tournament life wrangle invitations to PGA dinners or special tournament social events. And the “real pros,” says one ex player, “know the hotels and resorts where every player is staying. It’s not that hard to determine.”

“You’d be surprised if you check the bios of all the pros,” one caddie tells me, “how many say they met their wife at this or that tournament.” That doesn’t mean that every wife who met her pro golfing husband at a tournament was a groupie, but it’s another sign of how much social and extracurricular life is part of the pro tour.

My sources said that clubhouses sometimes resembled frat houses, with golfers exchanging graphic stories of the previous night’s escapades. Players talk about “the 19th hole,” or dub a girl willing to have anal sex a “double bogey.” A “water hole” is anyone who performs only oral sex.

Almost everyone I spoke to said Tiger Woods had a reputation, since the mid-1990s, as a womanizer (calls to his agent were not returned). When he was off the circuit for some of 2008 because of injuries, the young and handsome duo, Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Colombia’s Camilo Villegas, had flocks of young girls following them. I heard ribald stories about top players, including Daly (his agent also didn’t return calls). Two of those interviewed claimed to “know” that one of golf’s superstars, and his wife, were swingers, a rumor that persistently makes the rounds on the Internet and is repeated even by other golfers on the tour.

One person to whom I spoke had personal experience with pro golfers bragging about a night of sex, and then using a prescription amphetamine—like Adderall or Ritalin—to get going the following day for the next round (such drugs are banned by the PGA since July 1, 2008, and while there is random testing for drug use among players some ridicule it for being easy to evade).

So Tiger Woods surely seems to have a lot of company in the golfer’s behaving badly department. The big difference: no one else on the tour has made $1 billion based on a reputation of perfection.

Gerald Posner is The Daily Beast's Chief Investigative Reporter. He's the award-winning author of 10 investigative nonfiction bestsellers, ranging from political assassinations, to Nazi war criminals, to 9/11, to terrorism. His latest book, Miami Babylon: Crime, Wealth and Power—A Dispatch from the Beach, was published in October. He lives in Miami Beach with his wife, the author Trisha Posner.