First, fly to Manchester, England. Then drive 80 miles southwest to Oswestry, an ancient market town in Shropshire on the Welsh border. Go through the town on the main drag, noting an 11th-century church on the right. Then, on the Morda road leading south away from Oswestry, look for a pair of stone gateposts and a steeply gabled house set back among the trees. A white Porsche, the proud possession of the master of Dyffryn house, is parked in the gravel driveway.
Unfortunately, the master of Dyffryn has just suffered a temporary setback. He has had his license revoked for six months for driving the Porsche 122 mph on the M6 motorway. The West Bromwich magistrate who imposed the ban was unimpressed that the offender was Ian Woosnam, the tiny terror of British golf, and that he was returning triumphant after having helped Europe defeat the U.S. in the Ryder Cup for the second straight time.
However, when you have earned $1.8 million in one year for playing golf, a game you would gladly play for free if it meant you didn't have to muck out cow stalls for a living, you can afford to look on the bright side. "I'll sell the Porsche and buy another one in six months," says Woosnam, flashing a gap-toothed grin. "The £30,000 will do more good in a bank than sitting in the driveway."
At 30, Woosnam is a happy man. In 1987 he led the PGA European Tour with five wins, including a head-to-head victory over Sandy Lyle in the final of the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth, England. Although match play can produce fluky results, this one was no fluke. To get to Lyle in the final, Woosnam had to beat Nick Faldo, the British Open champion, and Seve Ballesteros, the best player in the world.
Then, late in golfs seasonless year, Woosnam, who's the son of a Welsh farmer, teamed with old friend David Llewellyn at Kapalua in Hawaii to win Wales its first World Cup. In the process, Woosnam also won the individual title. He completed his astonishing year with the biggest prize ever offered a golfer, $1 million, in the eight-player, winner-take-all Million Dollar Challenge in Sun City, Bophuthatswana. (As a result, Woosnam's has become the most prominent name on a "blacklist" of athletes who have played in South Africa.)
Woosnam entered only two tournaments in the U.S. last year. In May he played the Memorial at Muirfield Village, in Dublin, Ohio, where he finished 39th, and in August he missed the cut at the PGA Championship in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. But at the Ryder Cup back at Muirfield Village in September, he and his European teammates whipped the best of the PGA Tour 15-13, and Little Woosie became a star.
He and his partner, Faldo, had wins over Lanny Wadkins and Larry Mize, and Tom Kite and Curtis Strange in foursomes. In their four-ball matches, Woosnam and Faldo beat Hal Sutton and Dan Pohl, then halved with Sutton and Mize. The 5'4½" Woosnam lost his singles match to Andy Bean but astounded spectators by outdriving the 6'4" Bean more often than not. "He's one of the longest hitters, pound for pound, the world has ever seen," says Gary Player. So far no one has contradicted Player, certainly no one who saw Woosnam reach the long par 4s at Muirfield Village with a driver and a wedge.
Woosnam is not sure whether he was born strong or made strong by working on his father's 70-acre dairy farm in St. Martins, a village just north of Oswestry. "My first job when I was young was to drive the tractor from one bunch of bales to another around the fields," says Woosnam. "Then when I got older my job was to stack the bales. That's 60, maybe 70 pounds a bale you're carrying, and you pitch it up with pitchforks, 'pikels' we called them—don't ask me how to spell it. You stick it into the bale and then you pick up the bale and send it atop the loft. Not one, but 5,000 of them. Then there'd be the plowing of the ground and milking the cows twice a day. Used to be nonstop hard work. You can keep that job."
The third of four children, Woosnam says that all he ever wanted to be was "a sportsman," preferably a successful one. When he was seven, his father, Harold, entered him in a tiny-tots boxing tournament, which the boy won, earning the nickname Tiger. At school Ian played soccer and basketball, threw the javelin, ran sprints and did gymnastics. In spite of his size, he was reasonably good at all of them. "I enjoyed school, but only for the sports," he says. "That's all I went for. I wasn't too clever in school."
It was about the same time that Harold, who had played soccer and cricket on village teams, took up golf, and life at New House Farm began to change. Father and son would practice golf shots in the fields and make the half-hour trip to the picturesque golf course at Llanymynech Hill whenever they could. "Not more than once or twice a week," says Ian. "In summer when it's light till half past 10 we used to go up some nights after work. We'd leave at 6:30, get there by seven and play nine holes."