07 Dec 2022

Tommy Fleetwood: Dubai’s newest resident passing on wisdom through new academy at JGE

Winning a first DP World Tour title in three years, chartering a plane to Dubai and unveiling a brand new academy, all in the space of 24 hours. It’s fair to say Tommy Fleetwood’s start to DP World Tour Championship week was a bit of a whirlwind!

Let’s start with that victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, a tournament the 2017 Race to Dubai champion was defending from 2019 after a series of postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fleetwood arrived back in Sun City without a victory since his last trip there but was optimistic he could end the drought at a venue he had only finished outside the top 20 on one occasion. He duly delivered, shooting a five under par 67 to finish on 11 under, one ahead of Ryan Fox, to make a welcome return to the winner’s circle. However, the week could have been very different had it not been for an ‘amazing’ doctor.

“It was touch and go on Thursday morning (whether I would play), then Saturday when we were up early (to finish the second round) I felt like I had nothing in me, I was really poorly again,” said Fleetwood.

“The doctor was amazing. I just gave his little son the winning golf ball. Without him there was not a chance on Thursday I’d have played.

“I already had so many amazing memories of that place, such a great connection to it and it was such a lovely feeling coming down the back nine with a chance. You draw on the good memories that you have round somewhere you’ve won. I felt good all day.”

With barely a minute to celebrate his return to the winner’s circle, Fleetwood hopped on a plane to Dubai to celebrate the opening of the DP World Golf Performance Centre at Jumeirah Golf Estates, home to the region’s first ever Tommy Fleetwood Academy.

The academy, which builds on DP World’s commitment to growing grassroots golf in the region, is Fleetwood’s second having opened his first academy in Southport in 2018 at Formby Hall where he learnt the game under the instruction of his first coach, Norman Marshal.

The success of the Southport academy, coupled with Fleetwood’s passion to get kids into the game, then led to DP World and Dubai Golf joining forces to launch both the academy and the DP World Golf Performance Centre.

Local champion

“The goal is to get as many people playing the game of golf as possible,” he said. “There’s a lot of amazing things that the game of golf does. There’s a lot of amazing things it’s done for me. And I want to bring that to as many people as possible.

“I know DP World would love more local people, as many local people as possible to play. The ultimate goal is to have somebody from the academy winning on the DP World Tour. That would be absolutely amazing if we could do that, and that’s what we’ll continue to strive to do.

“But from whether the dream is to win Majors or whether the dream is to, you know, be a dentist, I don’t really care. I do think that the academy and the game of golf can help you in so many ways achieve other things in life.”

Replacing Pete Cowen’s academy at the home of the DP World Tour Championship will be no easy task given his place at the top table of world class coaches in the game, but Fleetwood is keen to get across his thinking of how to play the game to the academy’s latest recruits.”

“I’ve got things right and I’ve got a few things wrong, so I’m always trying to improve myself and I want to take those beliefs and pass them on my kids or children at the academy,” he said. “Throughout my time, I’ve been a massive believer of the fundamentals of the game; grip, set up and takeaway. If you can get the fundamentals right it allows you to have your own swing and from that point you can be an artist with the golf club – I think keeping people as creative as possible, using their minds, painting pictures and having a vision is important.

“Overall, we want to challenge them to their very limit of their abilities but give them the confidence they can reach that limit and not be afraid to fail on any given day. Failure is just another attempt, we want to keep them as positive as possible and give them the confidence to go out and do that.”

With Fleetwood travelling the world and playing on both the DP World Tour and PGA Tour, it remains to be seen how often he will visit the academy, but we expect he could be a frequent visitor after he confirmed a long running rumour – he is now a Dubai resident.

“Yeah, I am a resident in the UAE,” he said. “My family lives here now, kids go to school here. Dubai is where normal life is for us at this time. So that’s been great and we’ve settled in really well. Everybody’s been great.

“I’m not a coach. I’m a teammate. We have an amazing team of coaches that will be very involved in the day-to-day life of the academy, and they run it from that end.

Passing on wisdom

“But as much involvement as I can have and be around, and that is great. And to bring what I continually learn from being out here, from getting to play golf with my kids and friends and my dad and things like that, and anything I think I can bring to help people push themselves better in life through the academy is what I want to do.”

There’s also the added bonus of getting to play the Earth course on a regular basis.

“I sneak out all the time to play, I love playing golf,” he added. “A lot of people in the golf industry try to play golf as a ‘game’ but it’s one of the hardest things to do as we’re trying to get better all the time, always looking for that extra edge but actually keeping it as a game and enjoying playing it and realising why you took up in the first place is so important so I’m always trying to do that.”

After a strong end to the season with a win in South Africa and share of fifth at the DP World Tour Championship, Fleetwood now turns his attentions to Tiger Woods’ Hero Challenge before starting the new year with a flurry of events in the Middle East, including a trip to Abu Dhabi Golf Club for the Hero Cup, a reimagined Seve Trophy. 

The 31-year-old will Captain the Great Britain and Ireland team as they go head-to-head against Francesco Molinari’s Continental Europe side with both captains both playing in the event as well. Molinari and Fleetwood famously forged a formidable partnership for Europe in the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris, winning all four of their matches together to earn the nickname ‘Moliwood’.

“Fran and I obviously get on very well so I am sure it will feel a little strange at first being opposing Captains, but I think the Hero Cup is a fantastic way for players to compete in team match play, which is something both of us have always relished,” Fleetwood explained.

“Abu Dhabi has been pretty good to me over the years so hopefully that will continue in January and I look forward to working closely with Fran and Luke, as well as all the players.”

It will be the first taste of captaincy for Fleetwood in a professional capacity and one that seems to make perfect sense. He may not come across as the one of the more vocal players on Tour, but his passion for the game is clear to see and was highlighted once again when he had a tear in his eye after the win in South Africa.

Mix that with his eagerness to help others and you have yourself not only a Hero Cup Captain, but a future Ryder Cup Captain.

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