His Father’s Son: Earl and Tiger Woods
by Tom Callahan
Teacher’s Comments: Required reading for fans of professional golf.
Had “His Father’s Son” been published three years ago, Tiger’s SUV crash and the subsequent bimbo eruptions would have been greeted—not with stunned amazement—but with knowing smirks. After the fact, the book makes it apparent that Tiger’s apple didn’t fall far from Earl’s tree. In fact, In think there was a certain inevitability to the whole thing. Tiger is more Earl’s creation than anyone ever knew.
In “His Father’s Son,” author Tom Callahan takes a detailed look at the life of Earl Woods and through him offers the reader a new view of Tiger. Callahan begins with Earl’s childhood then moves through his first marriage, army career, marriage to Tilda, and the raising of Tiger. The latter half of the book offers scenes from Tiger’s golfing career, showing how the relationship between father and son evolved.
As portrayed by Callahan, Earl Woods was a deeply flawed man. He had trouble with the truth, was a serial philanderer who treated people poorly, and left behind a string of broken relationships (particularly with his first family).
Like father, like son.
In an interview, author Callahan said:
I was a little surprised at how uniformly Earl had exaggerated his past, but I expected some of that. On Tiger’s side, the adultery didn’t surprise me at all. The numbers did. I think almost everyone around him would say the same.
Callahan’s revelations about Earl and Tiger are not entirely new. Bits and pieces have leaked out in news reports and magazine articles, and a book I read several years ago called “The Wicked Game” had exposed many of Earl’s lies and peccadilloes. But Callahan is, I think, the first to put it into a framework to helps to explain just who Tiger was, and how he turned out to be.
His Father’s Son is a fascinating read, albeit difficult at times. But it’s not Callahan’s prose or pacing that make the going tough: it’s that you are taking a look into the lives of two very complicated—and to my mind not particularly likable characters.
Callahan’s book is all the more fascinating for that it was written with at least the tacit cooperation of Earl (though not of Tiger). Callahan had become friends with Earl after the author had tracked down the fate of Earl’s Vietnam War buddy Tiger Phong. (As it turns out, Earl had Tiger Phong’s name incorrect, which is why he knew nothing of his fate). That journalistic endeavor endeared him to Earl, and as Callahan says:
I was in regular contact with Earl for ten years. I sat in his living room many times. He telephoned me many times. Except for five hours I spent alone with Tiger at his home once, I had mostly brief conversations with him at tournaments, although many of them. He associated me with his father. He was worried about this book (obviously, it’s the least of his worries now). I promised him I’d send him a manuscript and did.
Given the nature of some of the revelations, I’m guessing that Callahan now will be on Tiger persona non grata list.
It’s not all grim, though, and its certainly not a savaging. I get the sense that, for all his foibles, Callahan liked Earl, and to a lesser extent (to the extent that he knew him) Tiger. It’s just that—knowing what we know—it’s a bit like reading a book on the design and construction of the Titanic.
Recommended. In fact, for serious professional golf fans, required reading.