Ian Poulter: From rag trade to golf riches

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Story highlights

Ian Poulter has played on the European & PGA Tours

The Briton is well-known for his colorful on-course attire

Poulter owns his own clothing range IJP Design

His first job was on a market stall when he was aged just 11

CNN  — 

His is the ultimate rags to riches tale.

Not many people make the leap from teenage market trader to golf professional, fashion entrepreneur and multi-millionaire.

But that’s just what Briton Ian Poulter has done.

This is a man who is equally comfortable sashaying his way around a golf course as he is mixing it with the fashionistas.

On this particular November afternoon, Poulter is clad in a crisp, white shirt and stonewash jeans.

Slim and athletic, he appears both smart and casual. But compared to his usual look on the golf course, Poulter’s sporting a surprisingly reserved look when we meet.

Famed for his fierce will to win and outrageous attire – he’s big on bold, vibrant checks – the Briton has coupled a successful sporting career with launching his own clothing label – which is now in its seventh year.

IJP Design, so named after its founder’s initials, can trace its roots back to the gritty surroundings of Stevenage Indoor Market – on the outskirts of London.

Long before making his fortune on the golf course, this was where Poulter first forayed into the rag trade – and where he learned some important life lessons.

Notably to keep your options open and have a plan B.

“I went with a school friend of mine,” Poulter, a winner of 16 professional titles who has earned over $27 million in prize money on the European Tour alone, tells CNN.

“I needed some extra spare cash, so I was talking to my mate who used to pack away and set up stalls. He said, ‘Why don’t you come with me?’

“That was at the age of 11, so that’s what I did on a Saturday and took it from there really. I enjoyed that.”

The competitive drive which has served the 38-year-old Poulter so well during his golf career was also perfectly suited to a market stall’s cut and thrust.

“I was 13 or 14 when (the owner) decided to allow me to run the stall while he went on holiday … I set it up and I carried the cash bag,” said the 38-year-old, recalling those early days of entrepreneurship.

“It was quite daunting but back then I was a little money maker.”

Read: Is Ian Poulter the ‘P Diddy’ of golf?

Over the years, Poulter’s revenue stream has widened and the bags of cash have grown exponentially.

He’s won titles on both the prestigious PGA and European Tours and is famed for his Ryder Cup heroics, particularly when he powered Europe to an improbable comeback against the U.S. at Medinah in 2012.

But while chipping, driving and putting his way to a succession of titles, Poulter’s interest in sartorial elegance never diminished.

Golf prides itself on the very best dress etiquette, but Poulter has done his best to shake things up a little.

During the 2004 British Open, he took to the course at the Royal Troon Golf Club in Scotland wearing a pair of Union Jack trousers.

Since then the bleach-blonde boy from Stevenage has graced the fairways draped in an eclectic mix of designs and even a soccer shirt – he is a huge fan of English Premier League team Arsenal.

“I wear what I want to wear as opposed to wearing what someone else wants me to wear,” he said. “I’m quite a control freak from that standpoint. I like what I wear, so it’s good for me to be able to promote that.”

Many might have laughed and dismissed them as misguided outfit choices, but Poulter’s street trading instincts told him he was on to a lucrative business venture.

“I felt that we would continue the one-off outfits and see where it took us,” he recalls. “Shortly after that I realised that we had a business opportunity there.”

Poulter is happy to delegate the design end of the business to the experts but he takes a keen interest in what they are doing.

“I don’t personally put pen to paper, I have a design team that do that for me and they do a good job.

“It’s about them coming up with fresh ideas, making sure the fabrics are moving with the times and making sure the color palettes and everything go with that.”

Despite successfully launching IJP and enjoying a lucrative golf career, there remains one notable gap on Poulter’s resume – a major championship.

But Poulter dismisses suggestions he’ll be best remembered for his trousers rather than his trophies, insisting that he is simply well prepared for life after sport.

“I’ve got 14 titles (two on the PGA Tour, 12 on the European) to my name and a pretty good Ryder Cup record, so I think that outweighs the business side of things,” he said.

“I think in a few years’ time, if I sit back and look at the trophy cabinet and make sure I’ve got a successful business, then I’ve done my job.

“I wouldn’t want to be in a position where my golf career has finished and then I’m trying to start a business. So trying to do the whole thing together is probably the right thing.”

So, three decades on from his first foray into the world of retail, what would the teenage market trader make of IJP Design?

“I think he’d be pretty happy to be honest,” replies Poulter. “The quality is very good. I think its premium, so the stall would look nice and smart.

“He’d be very happy.”

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