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 . : The Telegraph Newspaper , Article : .

Fulham and golf top bill in Grant's off-screen life
By Robert Philip (Filed: 31/03/2003)

For a man who has drawn comparisons with his famously elegant
namesake, Cary, Hugh Grant sweeps through the marbled lounge of the
Royal Westmoreland Club in designer crumpled mode. To be fair, he has
only just completed 18 holes in the baking Barbados sun, but the navy
polo shirt and white shorts have a distinctly lived-in appearance;
why, even the trademark 'byronically sensual' floppy hairstyle has
gone, replaced by spiky 'burst couch' look. Lieutenant Columbo does

Despite his apparently carefree sense of fashion, Hollywood's
favourite English actor manages to exude an air of languid
sophistication and charm. "So you want to know about my sporting
highlights," he says with a cinemascope smile. "Well, I hope you have
a couple of hours to spare." Our progression to a private corner well
away from the cameras and autograph books - Mr Grant, I have
discovered, would be a serious 'babe magnet' in boiler suit and
carrying a tool kit - is interrupted by Alan Hansen.

"What club did you use on the sixth [a 161-yard par three]?" enquires
an incredulous Hansen.

"A five-iron. Why, what did you take?"

"An eight, of course," replies the two-handicap football pundit.

"Bitch," comes the agreeable riposte.

Grant plays off 10, which is highly respectable considering he spends
so much of his working life snuggling up to Julia Roberts, Renee
Zellweger or Sandra Bullock, who contrived to snag her hair in our
heart-throb's zippered fly in Two Weeks Notice. "Between jobs I tend
to have a golfing blitz and I'm in mid-blitz at the moment," explains
Grant, who prepared for his appearance in the pro-celebrity event at
the Barbados Senior Open with a practice round over the Masters
course at Augusta. "I play my golf at Stoke Park and the Wisley, of
which I'm immensely fond [although he has a membership application
pending at ultra-exclusive Sunningdale] and when you are used to
playing in England, you simply can't cope with the speed of the
greens at Augusta. Eventually, it does your head in and you surrender
all confidence. What did I score? Oh, did you have to ask that? Low
90s, I think; most of which were putts. It was pathetic, I two-putted
on no more than four greens."

Grant's sporting career began at the age of seven when he was given a
Manchester United shirt as a birthday present in honour of his
original hero, George Best. "I put it straight on and ran out for a
game of football but was so excited I missed the door handle and put
my hand through the glass instead, which required 16 stitches. That
was my first sports injury and quite a butch one too, I'm pleased to
say. I remember making a papier-mache George Best which, if I do say
so, showed a measure of artistic talent."

Grant, the son of an ex-Army dad in the carpet business and a teacher
mum, won a scholarship to the Latymer School in London where he was
introduced to the curious delights of rugby union. "The strange thing
is, like everyone who plays rugby, I started off as a craven coward;
then the realisation dawned that it hurts far less if you tackle
incredibly hard and suddenly I was in the first XV as a kind of
stopper at centre." An early-day Jonny Wilkinson, in that case? "I
think I was, yeh, yeh." Grant's early infatuation with rugby union
came to an abrupt end when he left Oxford University. "I became too
vain for the game; and quite apart from vanity, no one would insure
me. I would have to pay the entire budget of whatever film I was
making if I got my face squished." And so, Hugh John Mungo Grant
returned to his first love in the colours of Marney FC (so named
after the captain's home road in Battersea) in a Sunday-morning
football league in south-west London, which, he admits, represented
something of a seriously misguided sporting career move seeing as "it
was far more violent than any rugby match, especially since we were a
sedate middle-class 11". Did the fact he was already a screen idol
mark him down as a target for the opposition hard men? "Luckily, I
wasn't well known to the British Telecom engineers we were playing
against. Not many of them had seen Maurice or The Lair of the White
Worm [a preposterous horror thriller co-starring Amanda Donohoe].
Apart from the ones on drugs, that is." But I saw The Lair of the
White Worm. "I rest my case."

"But we looked nice, which was more important than how we played. We
worried more about our kit than results; we originally played in all-
white but I decided that made me look a bit washed out so we changed
to that rather fetching Argentine white and blue to go with my eyes."

Although at 42 Grant has long since abandoned the practice of risking
his startlingly blue eyes against the flying elbows of the lads from
British Telecom, he remains an impassioned Fulham supporter, even
including the club's 1975 FA Cup final song - the classic Viva el
Fulham - among his musical favourites on Desert Island Discs (a
diverse selection which also contained Verdi's Chorus of the Hebrew
Slaves and The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies. Fulham manager Jean Tigana
is a near neighbour in London but from his reaction clearly has no
idea as to the identity of the rabid fan who habitually accosts him
in the local newsagent to congratulate or commiserate on the team's
latest performance. Tigana, alone in Britain one suspects, has
obviously never heard of Grant's 13-year relationship with Liz Hurley
or rented the videos of Notting Hill and Bridget Jones's Diary.

Grant also worked with the notoriously pernickety Oscar-winning
director Roman Polanski on Bitter Moon yet confesses he is never more
nervous than when required to stand on a first tee at a pro-celebrity
event. "You are very, very exposed out there, especially in front of
the cameras. I remember playing a practice round before the Dunhill
Cup at the Old Course, St Andrews and there was a bunch of
photographers following me around. 'Why are they not taking any
pictures?' I wondered to myself. The reason was, of course, that I
was playing quite well. Then on the ninth hole, I got into one of
those huge pot bunkers and couldn't get out whereupon all you could
hear was Click! Click! Click! Click! The fans love seeing so-called
stars in such trouble, needless to say: I think they find it
comforting. It's great fun for us to play with the likes of Manuel
Pinero and Bernard Gallacher but it's a strange form of masochism

When not working with close friend Colin Montgomerie's coach, Denis
Pugh, Grant hones his skills at the Leslie King Golf School in
Knightsbridge. "It's a converted squash court near Harvey Nicholls
where they are very good at taking crap golfers and teaching them the
basics. Monty is also very generous with his tips although he's such
a naturally gifted player - he's all feel and instinct - his is not
the best swing to watch except from an aesthetic point of view. Monty
has a wristy and fluid action for which you need to be a genius."

Like many of Grant's (on and off) screen romances, his love affair
with golf has not been without the occasional trauma. "I was playing
at St Mellion in Cornwall and walked off in a tantrum because I was
performing so badly; I was awful, just awful. I didn't play again for
about a decade until I took it up again four or five years ago. Also,
when I was in my twenties, I thought there was a certain stigma
attached to golf. Let's face it, golf is instantly unattractive to
women. It's not sexy, like saying 'I'm a surfer'."

Having adopted the beach-bum surfer's look, there is not a woman in
Barbados who does not consider Hugh Grant eminently sexy.

 : . posted by Foxxy


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