Tiger's college girlfriend defends him

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 23, 2010 - 10:39 AM

Irene Folstrom

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A northern Minnesota lawyer who has said she was Tiger Woods' girlfriend at Stanford believes he was being honest during those five-minute interviews he gave to sports reporters on Sunday.

Irene Folstrom, a Bemidji mother of two and member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, is busy writing a book about her life. She missed Woods' ESPN and Golf Channel interviews over the weekend. Because she doesn't follow Woods closely, I briefed Folstrom on Monday on how Woods had taken complete ownership of living a fraudulent, unprincipled life; hurting his wife, Elin Nordegren, with whom he is trying to reconstruct their marriage, and accepting his new stature as a punch line because "I'm the one who did those things. It was disgusting behavior."

I told Folstrom I was much more impressed with these time-controlled interviews than Woods' televised, stage-managed apology. This cynic is just about ready to hug Woods because I didn't think he was BS-ing about working on his issues.

"No," she said, "he doesn't BS."

Folstrom said they listened to a lot of R&B music when they dated in college in 1994 and 1995, "and then he turned professional. I decided to stay at Stanford and not follow him on the golf circuit. My education was more important than being a golf wife. Basically, we were headed in the direction of making a strong commitment to each other, which means marriage. I was not ready to get married at that age, and I was not ready to give up the opportunity of being first in my family to get a college education." She said she later went to Cornell University, where she received a law degree.

My first interview with Folstrom took place on Friday night. I had been trying to reach her for more than a week after reading the first-person piece she penned for Sports Illustrated, although I saw only the Golf.com version that has been plastered all over the Web. Folstrom said she was offered "lots of money," but took none for the defense of Tiger that included: "Obviously, Tiger has made some big mistakes, but he's apologized and seems to be trying to heal himself and his family. He's a good person with a caring heart" who deserves a second chance.

Quite predictably, media across the country have been after Folstrom. "Your anonymity is going to be gone. You know this, right?" former Strib photographer Judy Griesedieck said to Folstrom when Griesedieck took the Sports Illustrated photo.

The most eye-catching aspect of Folstrom's visage is that she doesn't look like a Barbie doll from another homogeneous era. (Those eras being before 1993, the first year Mattel acknowledged Native American girls with a doll, to say nothing of pre-1967, when "Francie," the first black Barbie, was produced, according to Wikipedia.) Woods' prolific extra-marital jump offs were interestingly devoid of shallow brown or even light-brown-sugar types. You'd think the reckless abandon with which Woods was pollinating flowers, so to speak, would mean there eventually would be a couple of Black-Eyed Susans who could make the cut.

"It was interesting to me that I had such a wonderful and great relationship, given that I am darker skinned and have dark brown hair and dark eyes, and looking at who he's been with," Folstrom said, referring to the assembly line of other women. "I was very" -- she paused -- "perplexed."

Folstrom added: "I really appreciate Elin's love for Tiger and getting through this with him. I only hope the best for both of them."

Asked if she had tried to reach Woods, Folstrom declined to say, but she wanted to stress this: "I am not perfect, by any means. I do not profess perfection. That's why I have stood behind Tiger. I spit -- I'm an athlete -- I swear, I smoke once in a while, and I used to drink. I try my best to be a great mom. I just do not condemn those who have imperfections."

C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or cj@startribune.com. E-mailers, please state a subject -- "Hello" doesn't count. More of her attitude can be seen on Fox 9 Thursday mornings.

  • TIGER BACKER

    Irene Folstrom, shown in a current photo by Martha Lofgren, dated Tiger Woods during their college days at Stanford University in 1994 and '95. She has nothing but good words to say about him.

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