Ian Poulter keeps Ferraris parked and opts for six-minute helicopter hop to LIV tournament
At last count, Ian Poulter had 14 Ferraris in the garage of his Orlando mansion, but the Englishman has opted instead to travel by helicopter across this Florida city for this week’s £20 million LIV Golf event.
Orange County National, the venue for the third 2023 tournament of the Saudi-funded circuit that starts on Friday, is roughly 35 miles from Lake Nona, the Orlando gated community where the Poulter family have lived for 15 years.
On a bad day, when the theme parks are busy, the journey could take more than an hour. So 47-year-old Poulter and neighbour Henrik Stenson, 46, have chosen a less stressful trip.
“I’ve left them all at home [the cars] today,” Poulter said. “I know we live very close but we decided to use [private air travel firm] SpeedBird and popped in on a helicopter. Took about six minutes door-to-door and made it very easy.”
Will they continue this mode of transport throughout the 54-hole tournament? “It’s looking like it, yes,” Poulter said. “Orlando traffic gets pretty busy and more time at home will be great. As a professional on tour, rarely do you get the opportunity to have home-cooked food, sleep in your own bed and enjoy the luxuries of being around the house with family, friends and your pets. It’s pretty cool.”
Poulter regards his Ferrari collection as a long-term investment and is not in the habit of driving them to tournaments. And there is another reason to take the aerial route. “We’re just kind of doing a site visit around Orlando to see if there’s any cool areas where we may be able to build a Sticks stadium golf course,” he said.
“Sticks” is the shortened name of “Majesticks”, the team comprising Poulter, Stenson, Lee Westwood and Sam Horsfield. The branding is all over their apparel and the LIV business plan demands the franchise is developed into separate businesses. Part of this is for each team to have their own home course.
As well as for practice and entertaining sponsors, the course would also help out “Little Sticks”, the foundation the quartet are backing to introduce disabled children to the sport. “Little Sticks is a community-based charity which is going to be on the front of our golf bags. We are very proud to help these children this afternoon [in a golf clinic],” Poulter said.
“It’s something that we are going to be sharing in numerous places wherever we play, and a really cool initiative for us to give back and help out.”
There are 18 golfers competing in this shotgun start who will be playing in next week’s Masters. However, for the first time in 20 years, neither Poulter or Westwood have qualified for Augusta. Despite their absence, the rebels’ presence between the cathedral pines will inevitably be a main storyline, with Joaquin Niemann already lighting the blue touch paper. “I think it’s going to be more fun knowing that they hate us,” Niemann told golf.com. “Then go to the majors and beat them.”
The 24-year-old Chilean is making his fourth appearance at Augusta and was speaking with tongue firmly in cheek. But there is clearly some substance in his jest.
“There is a big rivalry right now between the Tour and LIV,” he said. “I think there is a lot of players that ... I don’t know if they don’t like us or don’t like the decisions that we take, but it’s going to be fun.
“Since they gave us the notice that we’re going to be able to play the majors, I was like, it’s going to be so much fun those four weeks. Four weeks in the year against them, and try to beat them. Obviously, it’s going to be an individual tournament, not a team event. But we’re going to be feeling it, with the different players playing at the same time for their tour.”