SPORTS BOOK REVIEW: No Limits by Ian Poulter

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As a sports literature committed fan, I remain a firm believer that Golf has to be up there as one of the more thoughtful and philosophical sports.  And in general, the writing reflects as much.  In the build up to Christmas 2016, I thought I’d treat myself to something a little out of the ordinary – a Golf autobiography.  I say out of the ordinary, because I generally aim for books with more of a reflective quality rather than a pure focus on one person, but Poulter carries such personality with him on the course, I couldn’t see the harm in reading No Limits.

The book opens with an interesting and warm comment from IP’s agent, who openly acknowledges that our main character wasn’t keen on the idea of a book in the first instance, as he has in no way shape or form, neared the end of his career.  Eventually the agent (and I suspect the Publisher), talk Ian ’round and voila, we have this tasty hardback lying before us.

The book takes the reader on a strictly chronological walk through the Ian Poulter story – from his starting out as young lad in Stevenage, uninterested by school to a point, but a keen sportsman and avid pupil as long as he got to play football at break times.  His family home is a happy one, even when his parents split up years later, they remain amicable, and Ian’s Saturday job as a market trader sees him develop a rapport with customers and an ability with sales.

A failed trial for Tottenham Hotspur – failure probably bought on subconsciously by a young Poulter, who happens to be an Arsenal man, sees our main chap turn his hand to golf, starting out on a local course and working in the shop whilst ascending the ranks.  I could go on, but the narrative arc of the book is literally Ian’s progression from there upwards.  Interestingly not edited out of the writing, is Poulter’s fierce declaration early on that he is a private man who discloses little to all but his closest friends – of which there are approximately five he would trust implicitly.  As such, it’s a curiously linear read, and one which basically tells the reader from the get go that ‘I’m only go to disclose some nuts and bolts here – more than a Wikipedia article, but far less than say, Open, by Andre Agassi.’

Does the book work, therefore?  Well, to a point yes.  This is the story of how Ian Poulter gets to where he’s at circa 2014/15.  There are some thrilling accounts of the nail-biting Ryder Cups he’s taken part in, which open up that tournament to readers, giving us tantalising glimpses of Poulter and the crowd, and the vibe that truly comprises the Ryder Cup experience.  (There are some wonderful real life sequences that really did happen between IP and basketball legend Michael Jordan – watching the USA team from the sidelines, and they feature here in a warm tone.)  But equally, something in No Limits falls slightly short of a sports biography that really does reach beyond the sport to tell us a little bit more about character, philosophy, approach, and the sheer guts and determination that take a man or woman out of their designated sport bracket and give him or her that semi mythical status.  Poulter’s reflections on caddies and his experience with hiring and firing are good to read – but ultimately unsatisfying, and leave the reader with more of a feeling that they’ve read a back page column rather than a book.

There are vague moments of controversy largely concerning Poulter and either match officials, or Tiger Woods.  Ian and Tiger have a strange relationship largely conducted via the media and a bizarre moment where Ian hitches a ride on Tiger’s private plane, and allegedly Tiger think this is a bit of a cheek, a story which actually plays out in Tiger’s caddy’s autobiography, rather than his own.  I think you can tell though, there’s little to get excited about.

Ian Poulter’s book is by no means bad, but it’s not good either.  It’s a solid, average book about one man’s journey through golf.  It’s a pleasure in that Poulter does not claim to be an elite golfer, one of the greats, or any kind of enigma.  But he is a chap who took up golf, liked it, set targets, worked hard, and now has a comfortable life living off of the fruits of continued golfing labours.  By all means, give it a read – it probably won’t change your life, but at least you’ll be more au fait with private plane etiquette at the end.

4/10 – but with no hard or negative feelings toward a simply ‘nice’ read.

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