Golf Vacations (Malaysia)

THE INTERVIEW SERIES Tommy Fleetwood Once a 200th-something ranked golfer, Tommy Fleetwood is now one of the hottest faces on tour, aside from his trademark locks.

Inspiring the next generation of young golfers with his easy charm and famous hair.

- BY TIM SOUTHWELL PICTURES BY MIKE MEYER PHOTOGRAPH­Y

Tommy Fleetwood is staying in Will Smith’s house at Isleworth Country Club in Florida. As we approach the security barriers at the entrance to this golfing mecca, you’re reminded you’re about to enter one of golf ’s genuinely special places.

PGA stars to have bought properties here include Mark O’meara, Stuart Appleby, Paula Creamer, Lee Janzen, Charles Howell III and Tiger Woods. Houses inside Isleworth’s 600 acres, 45 miles southwest of Orlando, Fla., cost between US$2 million and

US$8 million.

Aside from Tiger and the golf fraternity, homeowners have included sports legends like NBA superstar Shaquille O’neill, movie stars like Wesley Snipes and tycoons like Planet Hollywood creator Robert Earl.

The developmen­t is ranked the world’s No. 1 luxury golf community, and the Mediterran­ean-style country club is a massive 89,000 square feet. Isleworth has its own private security force with marked patrol cars and fully staffed guard houses that carefully screen visitors. Even police officers from the nearest incorporat­ed town, Windermere, must ask permission to enter.

As we drive through the windy road we can’t help but be impressed, and a little intimidate­d, by the size of the luxury houses flanking us from either side. We even caught a glimpse of where Tiger had his 2:30am car crash on Nov. 27, 2009.

Isleworth is like Disneyland for golf nuts.

This place has it all, including Arnold Palmer’s championsh­ip course which is ranked Florida’s longest and toughest, attracting the world’s greatest players to descend upon the place to play and practice on its pristine facilities.

This is a fact not lost on Tommy Fleetwood who has holed up here to prepare for his next PGA Tour event, the Bay Hill Arnold Palmer Invitation­al.

Three years ago, Tommy was ranked something like 200 in the world and seriously considerin­g an alternativ­e career. What has happened since then is the stuff of dreams: multiple European Tour wins, top 10 finishes in the majors and that history-making double act with Francesco Molinari at the 2018 Ryder Cup.

During this time, he had risen to as high as 9th in the world. Most important of all, the ceiling that restricts most tour players’ horizons has been blown away.

Put simply, Tommy Fleetwood is one of the hottest golfers on the planet right now. What’s more, his trademark locks and chirpy persona have turned him into something of a hero, especially amongst the younger fans.

After a tour of the stunning and truly spectacula­r Isleworth clubhouse with Isleworth president Wayne Sheffield, we get the nod from Clare (Tommy’s manager, wife and mother of young Franklin) that we are welcome to come and do the photo shoot and interview at their house, but can we please be quiet because they’ve just got young Franklin down to sleep.

Pinch yourselves, we’re going to Will Smith’s house. Actually, it’s the house he hires when he’s staying at Isleworth, but for Tommy, who is a massive Will Smith fan, this is as good as it gets.

When the large electric garage door opens to five or so feet, Clare walks out and greets us with a “Great too see you guys, but sshhh… we have to walk past Frankie’s room.”

“I’ve built a family at quite an early age – you have something to work for which is absolutely perfect for me. If I never hit another golf shot again I’d be just as happy as I am now because of those people.”

We tip-toe past Frankie’s room and into a large kitchen/lounge area. Tommy is there chatting to his coach Graham Walker and his step kids Oscar and Mo. It’s a very contented and laid back scene.

They are a long way from Cheshire and their real home, but as long as Tommy is with family, he is happy. GV: You’ve been as high as World No 9, how high can you go?

Tommy Fleetwood:

World number one has to be the goal, that’s the dream. It always has been. It gets harder to make those strides the higher you go up the rankings. It’s relatively simple when you’re down at 200 in the world to make leaps forward. Right now I can see a lot of improvemen­t in myself but you don’t know who’s going to come along.

Back where I was struggling in 2016 I didn’t think I would necessaril­y get here but I also didn’t think it wouldn’t happen. I was, to be fair, looking at other potential jobs in golf when things got bad but I always thought I could get there if I could just start playing better.

I know it sounds a bit daft but that’s all it takes. All the guys on tour can really play, but confidence only

“People on tour, fans and everyone never call me Fleetwood, it’s just Tommy, and I think that’s great because it’s really informal and suggests people think I’m approachab­le.

The hair is part of the brand (laughs) and I can’t see me cutting it off any time soon.”

comes when you improve and keep improving, and then putting that into action during tournament­s.

What drives you to succeed? I’m driven to succeed by my own desire to be as good as possible, that was my idea and goal when it was just me and it still remains today. There’s no greater motivating factor than your family and kids but at the same time if you play bad, they’re the ones who are there for you.

I’m a very unselfish person, I struggle to do things just for myself so having a family – and I’ve built a family at quite an early age – you have something to work for which is absolutely perfect for me. If I never hit another golf shot again I’d be just as happy as I am now because of those people.

The Ryder Cup, Paris, Molliwood, the stuff of legends, ain’t it ? The Ryder Cup was brilliant. I actually really like the Molliwood tag, I think it’s cool. I didn’t win five out of five like Fran, but I’m really glad to be a part of that history and being part of a team that won four out of four points was absolutely amazing.

At the time when you’re in that bubble, you don’t really see what it’s like out there with the fans and the impact it’s having back home. I would have loved to have been on the outside seeing people’s reactions. I think the Molliwood tag is great, it just kind of arose. I would love to give it another go in a couple of years and keep it going. We have made a little piece of history there so live it, take it! And you and Francesco have unwittingl­y named your sons after yourselves??? Yeah, and no one’s actually written this before so you’ve got a scoop. Yeah, it’s Frankie Fleetwood and Tommy Molinari! It’s pure coincidenc­e, completely bonkers. It’s funny because mine and Clare’s son Franklin is accidental­ly named after Fran, and his son, Tommaso, is also accidental­ly named after me. Clare and I were talking one day and we suddenly realised this. I texted Fran immediatel­y to tell him how mad it was and he just said, ‘Yeah, I know, I’ve always known.’ His wife Valentina didn’t know and she couldn’t believe it either, she was mesmerised by it but Fran was just, well, he’s a laid back dude.

Your hair is almost as famous as you now. Probably more! I actually really like it because it is a bit different. I would cut it all off at some point but at the moment it’s got to stay, it’s on a hot run. It’s nice to have a different look and I do think it’s attracted a slightly different audience. It’s attracted a lot of comments and I’ve seen kids coming out here with longer hair and have a reason to grow it and I mean, that’s never been the purpose of me growing my hair, it just happened.

People on tour, fans and everyone never call me Fleetwood, it’s just Tommy, and I think that’s great because it’s really informal and suggests people think I’m approachab­le. The hair is part of the brand (laughs) and I can’t see me cutting it off any time soon. How important is it that we attract younger people to the sport ? I think it’s massive and I think the sport is getting cooler and I think it would be a real missed opportunit­y if we didn’t take this opportunit­y to grow it and make it cooler. I’ve always been against, I mean I’m not going to say I’m massively against tradition, but I’ve had conversati­ons in the past about attire on the golf course and making the game more available and appealing for young kids.

At the end of the day, golf is always going to be around but we have an obligation to make the game more appealing to kids. I’m all for trying to get kids, whatever their background, getting into it however they want to do it.

Tell us about your all time favourite golfer. Lee Trevino is just my all time golfing hero. The way he swung the club, I can watch it and study it for hours. It’s a thing of beauty. I’ve modelled a few things on him. I also like the fact that he was very much his own man, he did everything his own way, he learnt the game on his own.

I always wanted to meet him and I saw him at a tournament in Canada last year and he actually came and spoke to me. It was brilliant. They say never meet your heroes, but he was definitely an exception to that rule. He was funny, talked to me for ages and it was really special. Finally, what do you need to do to make that transition up to top? To get there, I need to improve approach shots from 150 yards in and putt more consistent­ly from inside 10 feet. If I get those in order, then it’ll be about getting more wins. I’ve had good European Tour wins but I need to win on the PGA Tour and across the world, and then eventually that belief comes and Majors become a part of that.

I’m taking steps and improving and then it’s going to be physically doing it, physically winning tournament­s and then hopefully that belief and hopefully those stages happen and it will be a continual process to the point where I get t where I want to go.

 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia