Sport - Golf - Tommy Fleetwood
Tommy Fleetwood is the latest DP World Tour star to make Dubai his home Image Credit: Harry Grimshaw, Golf Editor Gulf News

A year on from the official opening of the Tommy Fleetwood Academy at Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai's newest golfing resident, DP World Tour member Tommy Fleetwood reflects on the past 12 months he has had in the UAE with his family after what's been a rather busy year for the 32-year-old!

Watch the full interview with Tommy Fleetwood Harry Grimshaw, Golf Editor Gulf News

Tommy, it's good to catch up. I guess it's close to a year that you've called Dubai your second home. How have you and the family settled in?

It's been great for us. The first thing obviously is it's a slight change of lifestyle. Even in the hot summer months when we came back for the start of school, the amount of times for the kids spend outdoors I think has been great to see. And, and I we're all enjoying being part of the community here at JGE. So far it's been very good. Anytime you move away from your original home, it's always a big step and always nerve racking. But everybody's been great and we've loved being a part of it here.

We can even see your son Frankie running about the academy here.

He loves it, just loves it! He is pretty much my full time coach! It's great to see because he's a similar age to me when I started and I guess watching him now start to grow up and seeing his love for the game is something that's really sweet and really cool. Watching all three boys of our here and how much they're progressing and how much they're enjoying it is something that's really beautiful to see.

Yeah I've seen Oscar with his name on a few golf trophies as well recently. That must be cool to see?

Yes! For Myself and Claire, our one thing for the kids is you just want them to be passionate about something to set their minds to. The fact that it's golf is great and I could definitely do that! Watching them have results to smile about as well and enjoy the game and progress every day it's been great. Between my job, Claire's job and now the kids playing, it's obviously a very golf based life.

Let's chat about your TFA academy here, it’s a rather nice facility!

Oh, it's mega. Having the opportunity for the academy and the visions that that we have for it now and in the future, is something that I've put a lot of thought into and want to keep it growing. Then along with DP World sharing that vision and having the opportunity to bring it somewhere where the facilities are as good as these, it's such a special opportunity for us. For me from a personal standpoint, to come here and practice and and work on my own game here is is amazing. I'm practicing on facilities that I could only dream about when I was younger, and I had good options as well! So for everybody here, we are very lucky and being able to pass on lessons and be around a team that's helping people progress is just amazing. I enjoy it every single day and I have a strong passion for the game, of course I do. So it's where all my dreams are. When you are around somewhere like this, you just wake up every day excited to come and practice.

I guess some people might be initially intimidated of coming down here, but it's really is open to any ability. You've got the Junior's, the Ladies programs then you've got the elite players and DP World Tour guys as well, that's a big thing to see as well isn't it?

I think you're right, I think anything you take up, whether you're a beginner or whether you joining somewhere is quite an intimidating experience. And the number one priority is creating an environment where you are comfortable learning, growing and failing to be honest with you, because you don't get anywhere without trying new things. Everybody is a beginner at something at some point, so to create an environment where you feel supported, where you feel comfortable and where you feel safe to come and practice and grow, spend time with people, socialise, it's so, so important. Everybody here can be very proud of the job that we're doing at that. We just try and grow it every day and we're lucky to have the people around it that we have. On a day-to-day basis, anybody that comes down to the academy is part of something that is a community that is helping each other grow day-by-day.

Tommy Fleetwood Academy Opening Harry Grimshaw, Golf Editor Gulf News

Moving along, did you enjoy the Ryder Cup?

I was a bit stressed at times, I've got to say! What an amazing experience it was. The only task when you get to the Ryder Cup is about winning the Ryder Cup. That is the sole motivation when you are there but when you spending time with the team, the family that you become, all of the things that go with it are the most amazing experiences that we get to have. And on top of that, winning the Ryder Cup as a team is just so cool for that that winning feeling. Like I say, a bit stressed and relieved towards the end, but just so happy that we got it done all together.

Prior to it, getting the captain's pick from Luke is something you haven't had to do previously, but do you think there was an added pressure on yourself maybe by yourself to want to perform or from outsiders like the media?

I don't know. I think everybody's goal is to qualify for the team. Of course it is. But nothing is guaranteed. I was very grateful that Luke showed his faith in me along with the guys that got a captain's selection. The one thing about once you are part of that team and especially Team Europe, it's such an amazing place to be because whether it's Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm or anybody else, you walk into that team room and everybody is equal and everybody is just Team Europe and that's it. It's very apparent that everybody is made to feel that way. So I guess you don't feel pressure from that standpoint, but you do feel pressure from yourself. It brings it's different challenges, really. All of a sudden you are playing as a team, you are playing for all your teammates, you want it so badly and you're playing for your captain. But that's just what the experience of the Ryder Cup is all about.

Paired with Rory McIlroy

And obviously some of those performances you were paired with Rory, is that something that you felt comfortable with and were you guys ever amateur partners in the same team's growing up?

So Rory turned pro young and I turned pro young, but Rory was just ahead of me in that cycle. When you turn pro young, you've had a very short life span of amateur golf at the elite level. You kind of get two years each at it if you like and Rory was just before me, so we never played together or competed against each other really. But we've known each other for a long time from being out on tour, and we've been very close and in past Ryder Cups whenever you go through pairings, I would say me and Rory have always been a possibility and it's just never worked out. But it was always an option. In this Ryder Cup, particularly in foursomes, Luke was very big on players that use the same golf ball to play together. He felt like that was a big advantage. That obviously worked out for me and Rory and just happened we were very comfortable with each other. I remember us talking about it after the second days foursomes, you come into the team room and say to Rory how great it was having the opportunity. Not sure Rory felt like it was a great opportunity to play with Tommy Fleetwood! But I said to Rory how I loved playing with him and he said it just felt so comfortable. Plus, having the opportunity to play in a Ryder Cup alongside Rory was something that was great for me. Glad we got our two wins out as well!

And then on the Sunday, obviously it was an incredible first two days from Team Europe. How aware were you on that final day of how the scores were going?

It's a strange one going out in 10th or 11th, 12th place because by the time it comes to your match in the singles it's been very quiet during the warm up compared to the first two days. The leaderboard can fluctuate a bit in singles, a lot more than it can do especially in the fourballs format. But you want to be prepared and you want to try and win your match. So that was what I was focusing on. It just turned out that there was a bit more emphasis on it than maybe I expected! It was funny because me, Shane and Bob, were warming up in the morning doing some stretching and we were all laughing about it saying 'You know, we're very happy that we'll be parading down the last few holes when the when the Ryder Cup is over'. But it didn't turn out that way! Then what an amazing opportunity for all of us there that were left out on the course. You just see the score, so you don't know what situation the players are actually in on any particular hole. But what an opportunity to play such a pivotal role there towards the end and you look at it in simple terms. It was six all in the end in the singles, but it felt pretty stressful towards the end!

Sealing the point is literally what some people say is their dream as a golfer. That's what they want to do. With you being able to do that, is that what it felt like?

I look back on it and I remember being stood on that 16th tee when it came to my shot and thinking 'One good shot away from winning the Ryder Cup'. And it's like, wow, what an amazing moment for you to have in your career. You have to make sure that you realise of all the pressures that are on, everything that can go right or wrong, what an unbelievable opportunity this is just to be one good shot away from winning the Ryder Cup for Europe and to be able to play that that role at that particular time. Now I get the chance to remember that for the rest of my life, you know, and I'm glad that of all the shots I've hit in my career, that was one that I put a decent swing on!

Can you explain what it is that makes it so special for golfers to be in? And there is a different bond isn't there from the European team to the American team.

The most special place I've ever been in golf is the European team room. You know your playing with some of the best golfers in the world. Over previous years, I've played with idols that you've looked up to throughout your career. And I just always found it the most amazing experience of being in that environment. I think Europe does a phenomenal job of making you unbelievably aware of what you are playing for. The legacy of European golf is so important to our team and right now we are part of it and we're playing as carriers of that. It's been going a long time before us and it'll be a long time after us. But at that moment, we're just carrying that legacy for the rest of everybody else and I think you are made very aware of that, that you are playing for something much bigger than yourselves. My experiences with Team Europe have just always been phenomenal. What an amazing time and things to look back on and remember which is the same for everybody else as well.

And so I guess it's now back to the normal day job and down to Nedbank, you must be excited to head back down there as defending champion?

Yeah, it's been kind to me the last few times and it's a tournament that I've always loved. I remember going there when it was the 60 man field, and then 19 and 30. Played all those times and it's like 'This tournament is unbelievable!' It's such an exclusive one. As it's grown, it's been amazing for the tournament as well, for more people to get the opportunity to go to Sun City and experience what is. Honestly, it's a lot of people's favorite event. It really, really is from the golf course to just the whole place. Then when you play the ninth hole you walk around the water and there's the pathway and it's got everybody's winning plate of the winners over the years. So when I did that the first time, it was honestly such a special moment for me. Then the last time going and walking and waiting because you start at the very start and then my name will be at the end! So to have my name on it twice I'm very very proud of that and I'm looking forward to going back again for sure.

So we'll see you well in about three week’s time for the DP World Tour Champs.

Yeah, we'll be back for that! It's funny how things sort of progress and change all of a sudden. It's a home event for us at Jumeirah Golf Estates. I love being part of this community and then getting the chance to play here, hopefully I get a lot of support and it would mean a lot if I could go and maybe hold that trophy one day. We'll keep working at it!