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Jordan the Golfer

Dermot Gilleece looks into some amazing anecdotes from the F1 Guru and Golf Fan

Posted May 17, 2010 by Dermot Gilleece

eddie jordan

This week's BMW/PGA Championship at Wentworth, brings to mind one of the estate's most famous residents, and the manner in which he extracted a five-figure sum from Tiger Woods as a house guest.  Eddie Jordan, now a grand prix guru with the BBC, can also claim to have done a fascinating deal with Nick Faldo.

"Tournament professionals are a lot like racing drivers in that they're involved in a one-man sport," said Jordan.
The Faldo arrangement stemmed from an extraordinary situation in 1996 at Silverstone, where Gary Anderson, then chief designer of Jordan Grand Prix, was especially anxious to do some testing.  So it was that the track manager, Brian Pallott, was phoned to make the necessary arrangements.  "Can't be done," said Pallott.  "The track is taken up - a private day."  Intrigued by this, Jordan wanted to know who had booked it, but Pallott wasn't saying.

In typically persuasive fashion, however, Jordan kept at him until he eventually relented and informed the Dubliner that Faldo had taken it over to put a newly-purchased Porsche 959 through its paces.  This, incidentally, was the same, ultra-exclusive car which the player's American girlfriend, Brenna Cepelak, severely thumped with a nine iron after the pair split up in October 1998.  As she intended, the damage was extensive and quite costly to repair.

Anyway, a deal was done.  If Faldo would let the grand prix car on the track, he would be rewarded with a drive in it.  And that's what happened.  Jordan recalled: "We had to take the seat out to allow for Faldo's size and it meant there was room later for Anderson to have a spin and then for (popular ballad singer) Chris Rea to drive it. 

"The pay-off for me was an invitation to play a round with Nick at Sunningdale a short while afterwards.  Now, I have had the good fortune of playing quite a bit of golf with guys like (Nigel) Mansell, Alain Prost and the useful Jacques Laffite, but to play a private round with the winner of five major championship (at that time) would be something else.

"I knew that ideally, Nick liked to play with low-handicap amateurs, but he was willing to indulge me off 12. Or so I thought.  Sure, he was pleasant and helpful with my game and I was fascinated by the care he took with every shot, as he mirrored the high levels of concentration I would associate with Formula One drivers.  But when it came to talking, all he seemed interested in was cars.  Still, I'll always remember that round, if only for the crazy circumstances which brought it about."

The Woods situation arose from his involvement in the World Matchplay Championship, the week prior to the 2006 Ryder Cup at The K Club.  The world number one and his caddie, Steve Williams, became paying guests at the Jordan home, which is located on a corner where the end of the garden looks out on the fourth, fifth and sixth holes of the famous West Course.

"Steve was a massive fan of Jordan Grand Prix and he told Tiger about us," he said.  "The upshot was that I offered to put them up.  The two of them along with a chef and other members of Tiger's team stayed in the house while myself and Marie (Jordan's wife) moved into the annexe.  In the evenings, Tiger used to go out my back garden and practice on hole five where he had quite an audience by the time he reached the green.   Then he'd slip away into the trees, with people probably thinking he was going to the loo. Instead, he was heading for the back entrance to my house.

"We thought he would leave when he was beaten by Shaun Micheel in the first round on the Thursday, but he stayed for a full week.  Then came the really interesting bit.  Though Tiger's management company, IMG, had offered to pay us £15,000 for the week, I later told them the price was double that.  Then I requested that two cheques be written for £15,000 each, one made out to the Tiger Woods Foundation and the other to my charity CLIC (Cancel Leukaemia in Children).  When I told Tiger what I had done, he thought it was classic.  A great move.  He loved it. Then I explained that this was normal practice in motor racing."

Then there is his friendship with J P Fitzgerald, Rory McIlroy's caddie, who was on the bag for the Holywood star's sensational win at Quail Hollow early this month. "I told JP I couldn't think of another caddie in the world who had won with more diverse players," said Jordan.  "He's had tournament wins with (Paul) McGinley, Thomas Bjorn, Darren (Clarke), (Ernie) Els and with Rory.   He must be making 10 times as much carrying bags as he might ever have made had he decided to turn pro."

Should be an interesting week in the Jordan home.

- Dermot Gilleece

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