Ian Poulter. Poults. IJP.
12-time Tour champion. Two-time World Golf Championship winner. Ryder Cup performances so valiant the word ‘hero’ just doesn’t seem enough.
His egotistical on-course persona is loved and hated in equal measure. But like or loathe him, there isn’t a single golf fan who doesn’t respect the man who laughed in the face of natural talent and forged a successful career through determination and hard work.
But to his four children he’s simply ‘Dad’. And, along with adoring wife Katie, they bring out the softer side of Ian Poulter. The side we’re not privy to on a day-to-day basis.
“Being a successful golfer is the best job in the world,” he tells me, sinking back into an armchair in a cosy corner of Woburn Golf Club’s stylish clubhouse. “It brings the luxuries in life which you could never dream of.”
I sense a ‘but’ coming and shift my facial expression to acknowledge this.
“But the sacrifice is you don’t get to see your kids for 30 weeks of the year. I have four beautiful children and a lovely wife – and it’s hard to break myself from them to go and play golf sometimes.”
Poulter pauses for a moment, and then tells me the one question he dreads every time he packs his suitcase: ‘When are you coming home, daddy?’
“It’s pretty horrible to be honest. Sometimes it’s a week, sometimes two or three. But go to Asia and it could be a month.”
I ask Poulter if this affects his decision to play in some tournaments. He picks up a slice of prawn toast from a tray of snacks which has just been placed in front of us and dips it in sweet chili sauce.
“It can’t,” he says, shaking his head. “My job’s my job and I have to play golf to provide for my family in a way that I couldn’t do if I was doing a nine-to-five job.
“I’m fortunate that I’m good enough at my job to make a nice living. We all reap the rewards of that when I get back and I get some time off.
“We’re a completely normal family. Completely normal. What you see is what you get. When we did the videos of us eating cereal from the Ryder Cup trophy - that’s just the way we are.
“When I’m at home, I’m just relaxing. I lay on the sofa while the kids jump all over me. You don’t realise how little time you do have until you’re having fun with them. I love spending time with them and it’s a shame I don’t get to see them growing up on a day to day basis.”
Poulter pauses again, reflecting. It’s a surreal moment for me. I’ve interviewed the 36-year-old a couple of times and I’ve not seen him like this. It doesn’t last long though.
“But of course I have to get out to these corporate days and chat to lovely people like you,” he adds, with what I hope isn’t a sarcastic tone.
The Hitchin-born star’s rise from assistant pro at Chesfield Downs Golf Club to chief tormentor of various US Ryder Cup sides is well documented. But does he miss anything about those days?
“Not at all,” he laughs, then appears to think about it again. “Nope. Nothing.
“I don’t miss changing dirty spikes on dozens of pairs of shoes each day. I don’t miss the member who comes in with his shoes which he’s had for 45 years and they stink and need new spikes – but his old spikes are so old they’ve rusted in and you’ve got to file them down to get a pair of pliers at them to wrench them out. That’s a two hour job right there and all he pays you is £3.20 for a new set of spikes. I don’t miss any of that.
“But I loved my time in the pro shop. I had a brilliant time working with [my boss] Lee Scarborough and the other assistants. I enjoyed going through all the PGA exams but it was time to get out and prove what I could do on the course.”
And then I have to ask him the question I have been dying to ask. Any truth in the rumour you once holed out on the putting green from inside the pro shop?
“Yes, it’s true,” he laughs. “I think I won a KitKat. It would have been an orange KitKat too. They were great.”
Feature continues. Click here to hear about Poulter’s passions, his relationship with his caddie and which part of his game he would like to improve.