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“When you think you can’t, think of Ian Poulter”

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By Tony Clark

GolfWRX Contributor

Tony Clark is a former professional golfer and CEO of Clark Management Group, owners of the PlaneSWING Golf Training System. Tony divides his time between his businesses in England and Windermere, Fla.

I’ve met Ian Poulter, albeit briefly, as a result of being a member at Woburn where he is the playing professional and ambassador.

The aura of confidence and single-mindedness he displays means Ian might not appeal to everyone but I like him.

That opinion is shaped by my limited knowledge of his background, the work I know he does for junior golf and charities and conversations I’ve had with people that know him far better than me.

By contrast, I’ve also endured BS about Ian from people who display nothing but envy. You know who you are!

Poulter is 36-years-old. He turned professional 20 years ago when his handicap was four and he was a good club golfer but, arguably, nothing special.

But Poulter had a dream: to make a success of his life and prove his teachers wrong.

“All my life I’ve been told I’d never amount to anything,” he said. “That was always the message from my teachers at school. I wanted to be a footballer but that didn’t work out either. But, yeah, I just love proving people wrong. It gives me the motivation to succeed.”

Teachers take note — you make or break our leaders of tomorrow.

With no amateur career to speak of Poulter pursued his dream of being a successful tour pro.  He was an assistant professional at Chesfield Downs, a modest club where, it seems, he received little encouragement.

I’m sure Poulter’s self-belief wasn’t unshakable — we all have bad days. But it was undoubtedly stronger than most – as he has proved so spectacularly.

Now, when kids and adults alike look at Poulter, what do they see?

That’s for them to answer. What I see is a self-made man in the truest sense of the word.

Not only has Poulter worked his butt off to get his game to a level where he competes with the best in one of the most competitive sports in the world, he’s done so with a metaphorical foot on his head trying to keep him down.

His persona is not an accident in my view. He’s made some excellent strategic marketing decisions that ensure he remains at the forefront of golfing news.

People ridiculed the remark he made about his ability (there’s that collective metaphorical foot again) when he told Golf World (UK) in March 2008:

“Don’t get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer, but I know I haven’t played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger.”

Was it hype or did he mean it? I hope it was both!

So after 12 years we’ve seen Poulter the golfer, marketer and, through his junior golf and charitable works, the philanthropist.

Always a snappy and trendy dresser, Poulter created IJP Design several years ago and launched a clothing range every bit as controversial, and to a great extent retro, as he is. Enter Poulter the entrepreneur.

All of which makes him appear a magical blend of Doug Sanders, Richard Branson, Donald Trump and Paul Getty.

Add to this the fact that Poulter actually has a wonderful family, spending as much time as he can with his wife and their FOUR children. Enter Ian Poulter the family man.

Undoubtedly, Poulter has a great team around him. No one person could manage everything that goes on his life. So we can now add ‘time management’ and ‘delegation’ to his skill set. Stand up Ian Poulter the CEO!

Furthermore, while Poulter was one of Europe’s 12 sporting heroes in the Ryder Cup at Medinah, he was acknowledged by his teammates as the Leader — someone who thrives on pressure; the aggressive home supporters unwittingly his driving force. Someone should have warned them not to put a metaphorical foot on his head!

So when you think you can’t, think of Ian Poulter.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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Golfer for 40 years. A former golf pro, I just love the game and what it means to so many people. Enjoyed working with some incredible people in a range of industries. Passionate about helping others toward rapid and sustained improvement. Married to Dianne for more than 30 years with two wonderful (I mean it) grown kids. I've been lucky in life and appreciate every bit of it. The bad times have been expensive, hurtful and thankfully short and I'm blessed with more amazing friends than anyone deserves! Keen supporter of Golf Supports Our Troops and SMGA, both helping injured US service men and women rehabilitate and discover our great game. Committed Everton (est 1878) Fan. The UK's most genuine Premier League Football (soccer!!) Club. Live in Windermere, Fla., and UK.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Roger in NZ

    Oct 6, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Great article about a great guy.
    Thanks to Tony Clark for pointing out not just Golf successes, but retro style!, family and Philanthropy. And the power of Delegation and Self Belief ! Michael G, so many of those whining 8 year olds sell the goods on Ebay a day later…………

    • Tony Clark

      Aug 20, 2014 at 5:25 am

      Hi Roger, After a spectator caught Rory’s ball at the 72nd hole of The Open Championship and then sold it on eBay for $30k, I immediately recalled your comment above. Spot on. Haha! Hope you’re well.

  2. Mark I

    Oct 5, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    if you judged every golfer (or elite athlete from ANY sport for that Matter) on whether they have not signed an autograph for someone before, Im afraid you would be sadly dissapointed, and find that signing a “black hat” does not define a person or make them a fraud.

  3. Michael G.

    Oct 4, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Gutsy performance, but this guy is a turd. I watched him literally walk past an 8 year old autograph TWICE at the Barclays a few years back because the hat he was being asked to sign was black. The kid didn’t care, and was crestfallen when this idiot walked past him a second time. A complete fraud…

  4. Stuart

    Oct 4, 2012 at 5:04 am

    Congratulations on a truly great article. Ian deserves to be celebrated. He does it time and time again mostly when the pressure is at it’s most intense. I remember in Wales Monty was criticized for picking him and he went on to be the highest points winner that year too. In fact one of the most memorable momenst of the 2010 Ryder Cup was when the crowd sang there’s only two Molinaris and the reason they sang that was because 5 minutes earlier the crowd was acknowledging that there is only one Ian Poulter. I will indeed think of Ian if I ever doubt that I can achieve anything.

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Opinion & Analysis

15 hot takes from Greg Norman on our 19th Hole podcast

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Our Michael Williams spoke with the Great White Shark himself, Greg Norman, for GolfWRX’s 19th Hole podcast. Not surprisingly, the two-time major champion had no shortage of hot takes.

While you’ll want to check out the full ‘cast, here are 15 takes of varying degrees of hotness, from Norman’s feelings about bifurcation to whether he’d pose for ESPN’s Body Issue.

1) He wants bifurcation immediately, rolling back technology for the pros, rolling it forward for amateurs

“I would instigate a bifurcation of the rules. I would roll back the golf ball regulations to pre-1996. I would roll back the technology that’s in the golf equipment for the professionals. And I would open up the technology and give it to the masses because the pros who developed the maximum club head speed of 118, 120 are the ones who maximize what technology is in that piece of equipment. So the person who’s under 100 miles an hour does not hit the ball an extra 30, 35 yards at all. They may pick up a few yards but they don’t get the full benefit of that technology…I would definitely do that because I think we’ve gotta make the game more fun for the masses. “

2) He has no relationship with Tiger Woods and doesn’t plan to watch him play golf

“And this might sound kind of strange. What I’ll say is … I really, in all honesty, I really don’t care what Tiger does with golf. I think Tiger is, golf probably needs him to some degree but golf doesn’t need him, if you know what I mean, because there’s so many other incredibly talented great young players out there, probably a dozen of them, maybe even more, that are equal, if not way better than Tiger, and they can carry the baton of being the number one player in the world. So, I get a little bit perplexed about and disappointed about how some of these guys get pushed into the background by the attention Tiger gets. I hope he does well. If he doesn’t do well, it doesn’t bother me. If he does do well, it doesn’t bother me.”

3) He plays almost no golf these days

“I really don’t play a lot of golf. I played with my son in the father-son at the end of last year, had a blast with him. Played a little bit of golf preparing for that. But since then I have not touched a golf club.”

4) He doesn’t enjoy going to the range anymore

“To be honest with you I’m sick and tired of being on the driving range hitting thousands and thousands of golf balls. That bores me to death now. My body doesn’t like it to tell you the truth. Since I’ve stopped playing golf I wake up without any aches and pains and I can go to the gym on a regular basis without aches and pains. So my lifestyle is totally different now. My expectations, equally, is totally different.”

5) It took him a long time to get used to recreational golf

“But I’ve been in this mode now for quite a few years now so the first couple of years, yes. My body was not giving me what my brain was expecting. So you do have to make those mental adjustments. Look, there’s no difference than when you hit 40, you’re a good player or not a good player. Things start to perform differently. Your proprioception is different. Your body is different. I don’t care how good you are and how great physical shape you are. Your body after just pure wear and tear, it eventually does tend to break down a little bit. And when you’re under the heat of the battle and under the gun, when you have to execute the most precise shot, your body sometimes doesn’t deliver what you want.”

6) He’s a big Tom Brady fan

“I’m a big fan, big admirer of his. He gets out of it what he puts into it obviously…But he’s also a role model and a stimulator for his teammates. No question, when you go to play Brady and the Patriots, you’d better bring your A game because he’s already got his A game ready to go.”

7) He believes we’ll see 50-plus-year-old winners on Tour

“I said this categorically when Tom Watson nearly won at Turnberry in his 50s, when I nearly won at Royal Birkdale in my 50s….if you keep yourself physically in good shape, flexibility in good shape, as well as your swing playing, and your swing. Yeah, maybe the yips come in maybe they don’t, that depends on the individual, right? But at the end of the day, my simple answer is yes. I do believe that’s going to happen.”

8) The Shark logo has been vital to his post-golf success

“But I realized very early on in life too that every athlete, male or female, no matter what sports you play you’re a finite entity. You have a finite period of time to maximize your best performance for X number of years. And with golf, if you look at it historically, it’s almost like a 15 year cycle. I had my 15 year run. Every other player has really has had a 15 year run, plus or minus a few years.”

“So you know you have that definitive piece of time you got to work with and then what you do after that is understanding what you did in that time period. And then how do you take that and parlay it? I was lucky because I had a very recognizable logo. It wasn’t initials. It wasn’t anything like that. It was just a Great Shark logo. And that developed a lot of traction. So I learned marketing and branding very, very quickly and how advantageous it could be as you look into the future about building your businesses.”

9) He’s tried to turn on-course disappointments into positives

“We all … well I shouldn’t say we all. I should say the top players, the top sports men and women work to win. Right? And when we do win that’s what we expected ourselves to do because we push ourselves to that limit. But you look at all the great golfers of the past and especially Jack Nicklaus, it’s how you react to a loss is more important than how you react to a victory. And so, I learned that very, very early on. And I can’t control other people’s destiny. I can’t control what other people do on the golf course. So I can only do what I do. When I screw up, I use that as a very strong study point in understanding my weakness to make sure that I make a weakness a strength.”

10) Jordan Spieth is best suited to be the top player in the world

“I think that Jordan is probably the most balanced, with best equilibrium in the game. He’s probably, from what I’m seeing, completely in touch with the responsibilities of what the game of golf and the success in the game of golf is.”

11) His golf design is built on two pillars

“Two things: Begin with the end in mind and the least disturbance approach. I think we, the industry of golf course design industry, really did the game of golf a major disservice in the 80s and 90s when everybody was leveraged to the hilt, thought they had unlimited capital, and thought they could just go build these big golf courses with big amounts of money invested in with magnificent giant club houses which weren’t necessary. So, we were actually doing a total disservice to the industry because it was not sustainable.”

12) He’s still not happy about having essentially invented the WGC events and not getting credit

“I’ll always be a little bit salty about that because there’s a saying that I keep telling everybody, “slay the dreamer.” I came up with a pretty interesting concept where the players would be the part owners of their own tour or their own destiny and rewarded the riches if they performed on the highest level. And quite honestly, Michael, actually a friend of mine sent me an article, it was a column written, “Shark and Fox Plan to Take a Bite out of the PGA”. And this is written in 11/17/94 and I literally just got it last night. And I’m reading through this article and I’m going, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I was ahead of my time!” I really was ahead of my time.

So, it was very, very kind of like a reflective moment for me. I read it again this morning with a cup of coffee and I did sit back and, I’ll be brutally honest with you and your listeners, and did sit back and I did get a little bit angry because of the way I was portrayed, the way I was positioned.”

13) He was muzzled by the producer at Fox

“I’m not going to dig deep into this, I think there was just a disconnect between the producer and myself. I got on really well with the director and everybody else behind the scenes, some of my thought processes about what I wanted to talk about situations during the day, and it just didn’t pan out. And things that I wanted to say, somebody would be yelling in my ear, “Don’t say it, don’t say it!” So it became a very much a controlled environment where I really didn’t feel that comfortable.”

14) Preparation wasn’t the problem during his U.S. Open broadcast

“I was totally prepared so wherever this misleading information comes saying I wasn’t prepared, I still have copious notes and folders about my preparation with the golf course, with the players, with the set-up, with conditioning. I was totally prepared. So that’s an assumption that’s out there that is not true. So there’s a situation where you can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time.

15) He would do ESPN’s Body Issue

“Of course I’d do it. I think I like being fit. I think on my Instagram account I probably slipped a few images out there that created a bit of a stir…And I enjoy having myself feel good. And that’s not an egotistical thing, it’s just none of my, most of my life I’ve been very healthy fit guy and if somebody like ESPN wants to recognize that, yeah of course I would consider doing it.”

Don’t forget to listen to the full podcast here!

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TG2: “If you could only play one brand, what would it be?” (Part 2)

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“If you could only play one brand, what would it be?” Brian Knudson and Andrew Tursky debate their choices in part 2 of this podcast (click here in case you missed Part 1). Also, TG2 welcomes special guest and GolfWRX Forum Member Ed Settle to the show to discuss what clubs he has in the bag.

Listen to our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Greg Norman on why he won’t watch Tiger Woods this week at the Genesis Open

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Greg Norman, Hall of Fame golfer and entrepreneur, tells us why he won’t watch the Genesis Open this week even if Tiger is in contention. He also discusses his ventures and adventures on and off the course, and shares the thing about the PGA Tour that still makes him angry.

Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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