Despite working in the golf media business for the last six years in the UAE, for one reason or another the name Joshua Grenville-Wood hadn’t come up in conversations I had with others in the industry, including my colleagues, coaches and local players.
How he hadn’t come across my radar before I don’t quite know, but as I sit here now writing this piece, it’s a name I will certainly remember for years to come after getting the opportunity to speak to him at last month’s Challenge Tour double-header, following an outstanding two weeks for the Dubai-based Englishman.
If, like me, you weren’t familiar with Grenville-Wood, you probably won’t be aware that he grew up in the UK before moving to Atlanta in the USA where his father worked as a teaching pro at Whitewater Creek Country Club in Georgia.
Having first picked up a club at the age of two, Grenville-Wood had developed into quite a player and made the decision to turn professional at the age of 19, before he and his family moved back to the UK, where he would play predominantly on the now defunct EuroPro Tour.
Two years later, just like many other golfers who have made the move over to Dubai, Grenville-Wood was sold on the facilities and warm weather, but it’s also a place he credits with saving his game.
“The main reason for moving here was the weather and location, it’s not too far from Europe and Asia, so it was an ideal base,” said Grenville-Wood, who has played on the Challenge Tour, MENA Tour, Asian Tour and Asian Development Tour in recent years.
“I’ve also got my coach Joe Marshall out here, so it just made sense to come to Dubai and pursue my dreams. I’ve not told him this many times but he’s probably the main reason I’m still playing golf.
“I started working with him when I hit rock bottom in my golf game at the beginning of 2019. I had missed five cuts in a row and I didn’t know what to do or where to go next, and he kind of appeared out of nowhere like my knight in shining armor. Ever since then we’ve had such an awesome relationship, he means so much to me – I’m in debt to him for everything that he has done for me.”
The struggles with his game were certainly a challenge, but it’s nothing compared to the adversity Grenville-Wood has overcome over the course of his career having been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at the age of five.
He suffered from being bullied, misunderstood, discriminated against and even excluded from learning at school, but golf proved to be the vehicle by which his ADHD became a strength, with the game keeping him occupied and challenged on a daily basis.
Inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity are not common traits you would associate with a professional golfer, but Grenville-Wood has broken every barrier in his way – something he hopes can inspire fellow sufferers.
“I was a real handful when I was younger, there weren’t many things I could do right,” said Grenville-Wood, who is an Ambassador for the ADHD Foundation. “I struggled a lot in school and moved schools a lot which wasn’t a lot of fun – it was a pretty rubbish childhood.
“ADHD is always going to be there for me. I’ve spent the last couple of years just trying to figure out how to deal it with it the best I can. I can’t stop thinking about random stuff, trying to stay focused is an issue and the hardest part for me is staying in the moment. Golf has taught me a lot about patience and a lot about who I really am – it’s been a massive help in trying to overcome my ADHD.
“To now be an ambassador for the ADHD Foundation is something I’m really proud of. It’s my way to give back and help people that are in the same position that I was; struggling at school and wanting to give up on things. It’s really important to me to be able to give back to that community and help younger kids.”
With an impressive 2022 under his belt on the Asian Development Tour, where he narrowly missed out on promotion to the Asian Tour after finishing 13th in the Order of Merit, Grenville-Wood looked set to play the majority of his golf in Asia once again.
But in December last year, the Challenge Tour announced its return to UAE shores for the first time in five years with the Abu Dhabi Challenge and UAE Challenge taking place over back-to-back weeks at the back-end of April and beginning of May.
The two events formed part of a 10-year partnership signed last year between the European Tour group and the Emirates Golf Federation (EGF), which aims to develop golf in the UAE, with 30 spots in each event allocated to the EGF to create playing opportunities for Emirati and expat golfers.
Suddenly an opportunity arose for Grenville-Wood to make a first Challenge Tour start since the 2021 British Challenge.
“Thankfully they gave a couple of other local guys and I a spot. I’d like to think I’m one of the players who pushes people out to the Middle East more than others, so it was amazing to get an invite into both of the tournaments. I can’t thank the EGF enough.”
He arrived at Abu Dhabi Golf Club with only one cut made in his four Challenge Tour starts, but quickly showed he belonged on a stage with the likes of former DP World Tour winners Stephen Gallacher, Tom Lewis, David Howell and Alvaro Quiros by leading the way at the halfway stage of the Abu Dhabi Challenge.
He remained in contention heading to the 72nd hole in the final round before narrowly missing out to eventual winner Ricardo Gouveia to finish in a share of second – his joint best result in a professional event.
“It’s a bit mind blowing how well I played as I was away from competitive golf for four months,” he said. “To come straight back into it and play some solid golf was really nice.
“The first two rounds felt quite normal, but the final two rounds I was playing against guys at the highest level, who have been at that level for a long time. It definitely did not feel like a Challenge Tour event at the weekend, that’s for sure!
“It felt like I was in the presence of some really good guys which made me play better.”
One week later, Grenville-Wood finished in a share of 18th at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club to finish the double-header 29th on the Road to Mallorca Rankings and opening up plenty more playing opportunities on the Challenge Tour as he looks to grab one of the 20 DP World Tour cards following the culmination of the season.
“It was pretty life changing two weeks,” he said. “To be able to play more on the Challenge Tour this season is fantastic, and the prize money I earnt is a huge help for the rest of the season. It really gets me started and allowed me to pay off a few debts!
“My remainder of the year is looking to be a lot more European focused now. I’m extremely close in points to securing a Challenge Tour card for this season and the next, which is amazing and will give me unlimited starts this year.
“My next Challenge Tour will hopefully be in the Czech Republic at the beginning of June followed by five more starts and then I’ll be heading to the final stage of Open Qualifying at the start of July. From there I’ll look to play the Challenge Tour for the remainder of the year.”
I may not have been familiar with Grenville-Wood before the back-to-back Challenge Tour events, but his inspirational back story in battling ADHD coupled with his down-to-earth personality and impressive game won’t be something I’ll forget in a hurry. I, like many others in the region, will be keeping a close eye on his results in the coming months and wishing him the very best as he bids to play his way onto the DP World Tour.