Felicity Johnson is one of England’s brightest talents. After turning professional at the end of 2006, she made her presence known over her first two years on tour, combining strong results with becoming one of the most popular players on the LET.
Now at the age of just 22 and having earned her maiden victory at the Tenerife Ladies Open in September, she has started to fulfil her true potential. Here, Birmingham’s finest reveals what makes her tick.
Felicity, congratulations! You’ve just won your first LET victory at the Tenerife Ladies Open. What are your thoughts on the week?
I was looking forward to going back to Tenerife because I enjoyed it the previous year. I played steady the first two days and at the weekend it all came together for me. I hit a lot of good shots and holed a lot of good putts, which made the difference between not winning before: just not holing the putts! I didn’t think about winning too much. It just happened. I didn’t make mistakes and put myself in the right positions to win on the last day.
Was your putting something you had worked hard on?
I’d worked hard on it for the last year but not a great deal had changed. In August I found a putting rail at home that had been in my room for the last two years but I’d never used. I got that out for the three weeks of Austria, France and Tenerife when I played well. Everyone was very supportive afterwards and pleased that I won. People had been telling me that it was about time I’d won so I was very pleased to deliver it.
You’re very popular on tour. After the win, you received a lot of messages. What was the best one?
Facebook was busy that night. It’s obviously a big boost when people want you to win. It’s not a popularity contest out there but if you can play good golf and enjoy yourself by having friends out there then that makes it easier. The support I’ve had has been fantastic on tour and at home, which has been key as well. It was nice to get a message from Bill Harman who is Butch’s brother who I know quite well from amateur golf. I spent a couple of weeks out there on a Red Bull coaching thing at Dick Harman’s place in Houston and met the brothers through that and kept in contact with them all. Bill sent me a message saying well done in France and followed it the next week and said that he was really pleased for me. Dick died sadly a couple of years ago. He used to coach Lucas Glover as well who won the US Open. He said that he was looking down looking after us. It was nice to know they still look at the scores and at what is going on.
Do you feel more confident now?
Definitely. I got to Madrid and felt a foot taller on the first tee really. I am quite a confident person but getting that win and actually being able to say that you are a winner is a big difference. I feel more confident. This year I’ve really felt that I’ve belonged out here. It’s definitely improved for the better.
Your third year has been your best. What is the fourth going to be like?
Even better hopefully! At the start of the year I wanted to get in contention more and have more top tens. I’ve got the win and I’ve had more top tens than in previous seasons. I’ve had a chance to win in Norway and France, finishing third and fifth. I finished the job off in Tenerife. Solheim 2011 is the main aim so hopefully I’ll have a good season next year, get a few more wins under the belt and take it from there.
Do you think there could be more Brits on The 2011 Solheim Cup team?
I don’t see why not. There is a lot of British talent out there at the moment. People have had chances to win and I think it’s only a matter of time before more British girls do win. To be a part of it is great!
There have been other young English players in the spotlight, such as your Melissa Reid, Henrietta Zuel and Kiran Matharu, but you have always flown somewhat under the radar.
I’ve always been that way even as an amateur. I went along and did the job. Publicity is great but if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen. Just let your golf do the talking and if people want to write about you then fantastic. You’ve just got to concentrate on playing your golf.
What age did you start playing and how did your career develop? Tell me about your relationship with your step-father Paul.
I started playing when I was five. My grand-dad John Rudge took me for lessons. He was the treasurer at Harborne Church Farm, a nine hole municipal. He was treasurer there for 60 years. Previous to that his brother was the pro there and his father was the pro there. It was in the blood and the whole family had played. I think it was only a matter of time before I started playing. My first golf club, the green keeper gave me a cut down nine-iron and that got me started. I’ve played ever since. I played for the junior teams there and then got into the county and England stuff. When I was 10 my mum married Paul who was my golf coach, now my step-dad. I think my mum had a wedding anniversary party and needed someone to go with. That was that. My mum Jay met Paul through coaching me. Paul runs a driving range: Hadley. That’s where I’ve done my practising for the last year.
Did you enjoy school?
I absolutely hated it. I didn’t struggle but it bored me. I just wanted to go out and play golf. I missed a bit of school playing golf in the summer but they were good at helping me catch up. I couldn’t wait to get out of the place. I started my PGA as soon as I turned pro in October 2006 and passed the first year then I took a year out. I’m just finishing my second year. It’s mainly coursework so if you put the work into it you can get it done over the winter when you’re not playing as much.
How do you find pleasure in your time out from golf?
Chill out! I like spending time with my brothers. They enjoy it when I’m home and we’ll go to the park or play FIFA, or mess about in the garden. Normal things I suppose!
How big of an Aston Villa fan are you?
I’m quite a big football fan. There are a few of us out on tour: myself, Brew, Trish, Laura, Sophie. I’m a bit of a “stat-o” when it comes to football. I can tell you anything and it’s quite sad! There’s always a bit of banter. We just wait for the football season to start so we’ve got something to talk about. Whenever two of the teams play that the girls support there’s a bit of banter on the range in the morning. And then a bit of stick from whoever wins so it’s good fun.
Why do you support Aston Villa?
They are just my local team really. It was Villa or Birmingham. Villa is nearer to me so they are my local team. My family supports them as well. It was the first thing I taught my brothers: claret and blue!
What do you think you would have liked to do as a career if you couldn’t play golf any longer?
I’d like to be involved in sports somehow because I love sports generally. A Formula 1 racing driver would be fun: driving fast and not getting speeding tickets.
Do you play much football yourself?
I’d love to be able to play football. I played in the girls’ 4-a-side team at junior school and that was about it. Because I was taller than everyone else they put me in defence. I haven’t got the pace to be a striker I don’t feel and it’s too energetic being a goalie. I’d love to play more. I might play a bit of 5-a-side this winter but there will be a few visits to Villa Park.
What can we look forward to seeing from Flic next year?
More wins, hopefully. That’s the plan. If you get in contention more, you win more. I’m getting a good career base and we’ll see what happens in a few years time. I love it out here. It’s great fun and turning pro was a great decision. I’ve loved every minute of it.
What would you say to young golfers thinking of turning professional?
Play as much as you can in tournaments. Its great practising but there’s nothing like playing in a tournament. Do your school work if you want to do that but it’s not the be all and end all. If you want to play golf give it a try. If you don’t give it a try you’ll never know if you could have made it or not. Live the dream!
Felicity will be back in action at the Dubai Ladies Masters, from Wednesday, December 9 to Saturday, December 12.