May. 30, 2007 | 01:00 PM EDT

Taylor Hicks's Mystery Lady Revealed

Taylor Hicks's Mystery Lady Revealed | Taylor Hicks Photo by: Starsurf / Splash News
Does Taylor Hicks have a new girlfriend?

The American Idol winner – and PEOPLE'S 2006 Most Eligible Bachelor – was photographed last week on a Hawaii beach with a bikini-clad blonde, later identified as Caroline Lyders, a morning anchor at Milwaukee's ABC affiliate WISN.

When asked about Hicks by local magazine, Lyders, who first met Hicks when she interviewed him in March, played coy. "Taylor and I are friends," she told reporter Bobby Tanzilo on Wednesday, "and as a journalist I respect your asking. But beyond that, I'd rather not comment on my personal life."

Hicks, too, has been private about his love life – even keeping his closest friends in the dark about Lyders. "I don't know about any new girlfriend," one of his friends tells PEOPLE. "But I'm not surprised. Taylor always had girls following him even before he ever became famous."

A rep from J Records, the singer's label, says they do not comment on their client's private lives.

Still, Hicks' willingness to be seen in public with Lyders is a good sign. "He is a romantic when it comes to women, and he treats them with respect," says the friend. "So to be seen out in public with this girl makes me know that he likes her, because that's just how he is."

Hicks has always known what he was looking for in a woman. "She's gotta be cool," he told PEOPLE in June. "She's gotta be easy to get along with. And deep. Shallow does not turn me on at all."