John Daly Will Save the PGA Tour

There was once a time when I argued until I was blue in the face, that golf was in fact, a sport. I argued until I was beat red, that Tiger Woods was the world’s greatest athlete. I have since lost momentum towards these arguments, in the stained sheets and egos of infidelity and public shame. No man with a title of “the greatest athlete in the world” can also openly admit to having cheated on a Swedish supermodel; if anything you cheat on whatever you have at home, with a Swedish supermodel, and when that news comes out, your greatness remains intact. That being said, golf quickly lost its cool, when Tiger Woods lost his wife and home life. A sport once dominated by one name, now spread evenly across a mediocre field, quote unquote athletes, with no house hold names to carry, no ESPN face time, and no universal, societal acceptance. I commit than, wholeheartedly, as a sports fan, and more assuredly than ever before, to the argument that Tiger Woods was not my favorite golfer to watch, follow, or root for. That man, the man that carried me through the hard times of being a golfer, a golf fan, a sports fan, and a young man growing up in a shameful society of fornicators and abusers, is Mr. John Daly. John Daly has explored the boundaries of what it means to be a gentleman and with every swing, explores the boundaries of his golf pants. He has pushed the limits of civility, while fluctuating more moods and sizes than a bloating middle aged women going through menopause. John Daly has lived through every mid-life crisis stereotype, divorced every stereotypical country girl he could lay his clubs on, and did it all while consistently driving over 300 yards, and sinking 20 foot putts. He is a golfer. His legacy remains strong in the wake of golf’s collapse, and he may just be the only man left who can save the once classiest of sports; the once most sacred of getaways for any man (or woman).

In 1991, the “Grip it and Rip it” spokesman stepped into the limelight to win his first major, the PGA Championship, at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel Indiana. He did so as a ninth alternate, subbing in for an absent Nick Price, and propelling himself into fan’s hearts and golf stardom. The storm that was John Daly was yet to be upon us, yet the Indiana terrain was already being subject to storms of its own, storms defined factually that weekend, as fatal. Daly entered that weekend a gambler, a drinker, a smoker, and a debt ridden, engaged to his second wife (soon to be second sunken marriage), golf no name. He left a winner, as we all know, among the previously mentioned attributes he carried with him, yet to one family, he also left a “savior, a saint, and a godsend”. Tom Weaver was a spectator struck and killed by lightning on day one of that fateful weekend, and a stranger to John Daly. Dee Weaver, Tom’s wife, is quoted as saying, “There is a goodness in John Daly.” What she is referring to, is that after his win and $230,000 pay out, without the media knowing, without self exploitation, and harboring his own demons, he donated $30,000 to the college education for Tom’s 8 year old daughter Karen and 12 year old daughter Emily. He is a golfer and a giver. Karen at school to become a doctor and Emily a respiratory therapist, brought this story back to life, to honor the charitable John Daly, whose donations to the Boys and Girls Club of America and the Make a Wish Foundation are no secret, yet this amazing story had been.

We move on, as if you need any more reason to like the guy, to 2002, where John Daly (and friends) drop a country album, entitled, “My Life”, featuring a cover of Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, and John’s original, All My Ex’s Wear Rolexes. He’s a golfer, a giver and a poet. His first album featured many guest singers, among them, Hootie and the Blowfish former front man Darius Rucker, a well known friend of Tiger Woods’. His second album was released in 2010, entitled “I Only Know One Way”, and is quoted by John himself, as “really (being about) his life…” implying possibly that his first album was about someone else’s. I think he wish it had been.

I had mentioned before that he first entered our world as a broken man, and failed marriages, among other abusive addictions, were one of his major vices. His fourth, and latest divorce, after a 9 year marriage, was made even more bitter, through John’s tough road to a sudden reemergence as a physically fit and sober role model on the PGA tour, his ex’s money laundering suit which landed her in and out of jail, and his 7 year old son, Little John. A testament to John’s turn around was his landing full custody of his son, and his ability to bring him on tour with him, over the course of the next year.

To begin 2008, Butch Harmon, famous golf instructor to Tiger Woods, among others, claimed that the most important thing in John Daly’s life was alcohol. In 2009, John Daly had lost all PGA tour exemption to enter and compete in events, having not won a tournament since 2004. He came close in 2005, losing by one stroke in a playoff, to none other than Tiger Woods. By the end of 2009, though his near physically impossible back swing and golf strength suffered, Daly had lost over 100 lbs, and on July 15, 2010, John declared he was completely sober, and his gambling debts had been secured.

In retrospect, John Daly has evolved, or to some, devolved, into a humble human being. A health conscience golfer, with obscure sponsorships, like Big Red, and the recently dropped Hooters, rolling through cities and towns of tournaments that’ll have him, in a mobile home filled once with Jack Daniels and cigarette smoke, now with the learning tools and books necessary to give his son John Jr. the proper education. Marriage and love may not be in John’s near future, but a man with a big heart, and generous pockets, need no Rolex wearing, money chasing female distraction to fulfill his life. He will continue, with his son by his side, his side slightly smaller than before, and a loyal cult following who like and root for him, not because of his talent, but because of the kind of person he is, what he’s struggled through, and what he has achieved. John Daly is your modern day Mickey Ward, your Cinderella Man, the proverbial comeback kid, having accomplished nothing but to stand out in a sport arguably made main stream by a man John Daly has fought his whole life, not to become. If anything can be taken from golf nowadays, it’s this; Tiger Woods will never be the same, and therefore golf will never be the same. Anyone with two arms, sometimes one, and two legs, sometimes none, can play golf. Anyone can give money to charity, overcome alcoholism, or give up smoking. Anyone can go through four marriages, and still come out of it with some money to his or her name. Anyone can do all of these things, but John Daly did them all, and he does one a little bit better than all of us, and that’s swing a golf club. His game may never improve, and his fame may never get any bigger, but he won’t care. His heart is what drives him, carries him, and makes golf relevant to me and my life. John Daly was and is my favorite golfer, maybe after my father, and myself of course, and with all eyes on Big John, wondering if and when he will play again, in every tournament he enters, his eyes will be on his brand new flat screen television equipped golf bag, and of course, driving the green on a short par four. He is a golfer, a giver, a poet, and an innovator. He is also my hero, and for me anyway, has single handedly saved the game of golf, and in the long run, not if, but when he returns, he can and will save the PGA Tour.


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