‘I built my golf course for just £6,000’

Dame Laura Davies has made mil­lions from decades on the golf­ing cir­cuit, but she’s a spender,

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Money - she tells John Wright

Dame Laura Davies, 54, is a pro­fes­sional golfer who found fame when turn­ing pro at 22 and win­ning four ti­tles, in­clud­ing the Bri­tish Open in 1986 and the 1987 US Women’s Open. Al­to­gether she has won 80 tour­na­ments, in­clud­ing 20 on Amer­ica’s LPGA Tour, four ma­jors, and the Ladies Euro­pean Tour seven times. She lives in Sur­rey with her mother, step­fa­ther and dog, Mur­phy.

How did your child­hood in­flu­ence your at­ti­tude to money?

We never had huge amounts of money but never wanted for any­thing. You had to wait to get things at Christ­mas and birth­days. We lived with my mum and step­dad in New Haw, Sur­rey, where my brother and I went to Full­brook Sec­ondary School. Mum was a sec­re­tary for a pain­ter and dec­o­ra­tor and my step­dad was a de­sign en­gi­neer with the Bri­tish Over­seas Air­ways Cor­po­ra­tion. “Don’t spend what you haven’t got” was the mes­sage to us kids.

What was your first job?

A friend’s mother worked in a fac­tory where they put clothes on hang­ers, and she got me a job there one sum­mer when I was 16.

My first proper job was at Sains­bury’s in the frozen food sec­tion and on the tills.

I also worked as a book­maker’s as­sis­tant. My nan al­ways liked a flut­ter on the horses and when we were kids she’d put a lit­tle bet on for us.

Do you use cash, debit cards or credit cards?

I like cash. I haven’t got a debit card. I have Amer­i­can Ex­press, which I sup­pose is a credit card but it’s one you have to pay off ev­ery month.

Have you in­vested in prop­erty?

I bought a sec­ond house once but we made money on it quickly and sold it be­fore we ever moved in.

Have you ever had trou­ble pay­ing your bills?

Yes, now and again when things weren’t go­ing too well on the course. It’s an ex­pen­sive old busi­ness, pro­fes­sional golf. My yearly ex­pen­di­ture is huge, with ho­tels, air fares, car hire and restau­rants. I’ve al­ways been rea­son­ably lucky in be­ing able to pay my way.

Have you man­aged your money well?

I don’t think like that. I think if you’ve got money, spend it and then go and earn some more, be­cause pro golf is feast or famine. I re­mem­ber the early days when my mum and step­dad helped fund me to get to tour­na­ments around the UK.

Are you a saver or a spender?

Spender. If I want some­thing and I’ve got the money I’ll buy it.

Do you in­vest in the stock mar­ket?

The peo­ple who’ve got my money have it in var­i­ous things, in­clud­ing Isas. I don’t fol­low it. I do the day-to-day stuff and some­one I’ve known for 25 years does the in­vest­ment side – a bank man­ager who changed path and now has a big in­vest­ment com­pany. You’ve got to trust some­body or do it your­self. Us­ing a big com­pany you don’t know any­one in is ask­ing for trou­ble.

Does money make you happy?

Things you can buy make you happy. I sup­pose the more you’ve got the more en­joy­able your life can be.

What have been your best and worst fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions?

On tour you hear about in­vest­ments and I’ve gone for two or three, but they’ve never come to any­thing – a com­pany that did vi­ta­min tablets and a 3D print­ing com­pany.

I’ve never had much luck in­vest­ing in any­thing that looked like a good thing, so I don’t do it any more. But I put a large sum in my pen­sion years ago and that worked out re­ally well. I had a tax is­sue and my ac­coun­tant hadn’t been do­ing it prop­erly and it was a case of “put a lot into your pen­sion or pay some fines”.

What are the best and worst things you’ve bought?

Cars are the best and worst things. Ex­pen­sive sports cars are fun but they lose you lots of money. I’ve had a cou­ple of Fer­raris, umpteen BMWS and a few Mercedes over the years.

Have you ever been ripped off ?

No. If I don’t know some­one in­volved in what’s go­ing on, I won’t take a chance on a stranger.

What’s the hard­est les­son you’ve learnt about money?

If I’ve had prob­lems with money it’s be­cause I’ve over­done it. Golfers tend to earn money when it’s go­ing well and you don’t think of the years that won’t be so good – so you can get into trou­ble. In women’s golf, prize money is big­ger than en­dorse­ments, while in men’s golf they earn for­tunes off the course. I’ve al­ways had very good spon­sors but not where it’s so crazy you have no money wor­ries.

Have you made a for­tune from golf ?

I’ve made a lot of money. In prize money I’ve won $10m (£7.4m) in Amer­ica and €4.5m (£4m) in Europe, plus en­dorse­ment money. Most peo­ple who know me would say I haven’t been sen­si­ble with it be­cause if it’s there I spend it.

One day I might re­gret that but I’m hav­ing a good time. Ev­ery day in pro­fes­sional sport you’re a gambler be­cause you make de­ci­sions that make or lose money. In golf it’s how many shots you drop or get un­der par.

If you go out wor­ry­ing about hit­ting a shot that you need to make your mort­gage pay­ment it’s a much harder game to play.

Is your race­horse a good earner?

I’ve had three horses over the years, never owned out­right. One is Danc­ing Hussy in Mel­bourne. I heard about it from an ex-player now in the racing in­dus­try who knew my cad­die, and I bought a 10th of this horse. She’s a bit lazy but it’s good fun watch­ing her.

My horses have done dread­fully. The most I’ve staked was $4,000. You could get lucky, but I’ve never spent enough to have one that wins a lot.

Was it ex­pen­sive build­ing a nine­hole golf course in your gar­den?

It was only one green, at my house in Ot­ter­shaw, Sur­rey. I bought an old green from a golf course and we set nine tees round the gar­den. It cost £6,000. It was good prac­tice and we had a great time.

The long­est hole was 90 yards, and it was through the rhodo­den­drons, over the ten­nis court, over the shed. There were some funny lit­tle shots to hit and we had a proper big linksstyle bunker at the front.

Where have you placed on the golf money lists?

I won Player of the Year in 1996. But Kar­rie Webb beat me the year when I was close to win­ning it on the LPGA Tour. I won about $970,000 and I think Kar­rie won just over a mil­lion, so I got beaten in the last tour­na­ment. It wasn’t fun. I’ve topped the Euro­pean money list seven times.

Has women’s golf changed since you be­gan?

There’s no ques­tion the top play­ers earn a for­tune on the course now. But away from the top ech­e­lons the money falls off quite steeply, whereas for the men it seems to be money for ev­ery­body. The top 30-35 women in the LPGA prob­a­bly have good spon­sor­ship deals and win lots of prize money.

Do you fly busi­ness class?

No. I fly with Bri­tish Air­ways transat­lantic and to Aus­tralia in Econ­omy Plus and hope some nice per­son will up­grade me: more so in my hey­day when I was well known. Busi­ness class is the best but only when you’re not pay­ing for it.

Has your gam­bling been lu­cra­tive?

Oh God, no. I’m no mug, I have good fun with it and you have the odd win here and there, but over­all if you’re a com­pul­sive gambler you know you’re go­ing to lose. Any gambler who tells you they’re ahead is talk­ing ab­so­lute non­sense. I like the horses and love hav­ing a bet on the foot­ball when I’m watch­ing it. It’s a hobby I’ve al­ways had.

Dame Laura Davies: ‘On tour you hear about in­vest­ments and I’ve gone for two or three, but they never came to any­thing’

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