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Wild Thing?

Blonde Bomber: Daly with the Wanamaker Trophy following his breakthrough victory at the 1991 US PGA Championship at Crooked Stick

David Cunningham III writes about the life and times of John Daly, who 20 years ago this month, shocked the golfing world with his win at the 1991 US PGA Championship

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wenty years ago, the ninth and final alternate for the 1991 US competed, and he soon became a household PGA Championship shocked the golfing world as he raised name. Daly would win twice more – at the BC the Wanamaker Trophy after four days of quite mesmerizing Open in 1992 and the BellSouth Classic in 1994 play. This hulking figure of a man (replete with golden mullet) – before his next major surprise. claimed the title by shooting rounds of 69-67-69-71 for a threeIn 1995, Daly earned golfing immortality stroke victory over the seasoned Bruce Lietzke. When asked when he beat Costantino Rocca in a play-off at how he did it, he just smiled and in his Arkansas twang said, “Grip it and rip it.” St Andrews for the Open Championship. There John Daly has stayed true to that motto. He has gripped and ripped his was now no doubt in anyone’s minds concerning way through his entire life, a life mixed with extraordinary highs and shocking the talent Daly possessed – his win at the Home lows. In the 20 years since his triumph, Daly has been up and down as many of Golf was achieved more through his wondrous times as a captain of a 747, but one thing has stayed constant: you never know short game than his gigantic hitting – but a what he will do next. troubled personal life, and various addictions may Daly started playing golf at the tender age of just four. He quickly took a have been what kept him from winning again until liking to the sport, and developed what can only be described as a swing only a the Buick Invitational in 2004. mother could love. He swung in a way that crossed the flexibility of a gymnast If there were ever a golfer that a country and the downright craziness of a contortionist – but his timing was spot on. song could be written about, it would be John While it may not have been the prettiest sight, boy did that ball fly when Big Daly. Actually, Daly has recorded an album, John took a swing at it. titled My Life, but more on that later. Daly As Daly grew, so too did his golfing talents. Daly attended Helias High School might have been a golfer, but since his US PGA in Jefferson City, Missouri, where he became the state's golf champion. However his breakthrough he has lived the life of a rock talents extended beyond the course, as is evident by the multiple kicking records Daly star. He has four ex-wives, battles numerous holds in American football; he was a letterman in both sports. addictions including alcohol and gambling, Daly graduated high school and went on to play for the University of and has been suspended from the PGA Tour Arkansas golf team. He left college before completing his degree to pursue multiple times. professional golf, and in 1987, John Patrick Daly officially joined the paid ranks. Daly first married in the summer of 1987, He claimed his first professional victory that same year at the Missouri Open. when he tied the knot with Dale Crafton. Early on in his career, he attracted relatively large crowds when he was on However this only lasted a few years, and they the tee, however these gatherings usually diminished as he walked towards the divorced in February of 1990. Two years later, fairway. This didn’t bother Daly though; he knew that he had the short game Daly married Bettye Fulford, and they had and feel of a champion. a daughter, Shynah Hale. However they too His chance came at the 1991 US PGA Championship. Daly was the ninth divorced after a series of personal problems. In and final alternate, but was given the chance to play after Nick Price dropped 1995, Daly was once again married, this time out. None of the other others wanted to compete on such short notice, so Daly to a woman named Paulette Dean. Daly and got into his car, drove through the night to reach the Crooked Stick course, and Paulette gave birth to a daughter, Sierra Lynn. teed it up in the first round the very next day. Price, one of the nicest people in This was one of Daly’s longer marriages to date, professional golf, was kind enough to offer his caddie, Jeff "Squeaky" Medlin, lasting four years until 1999. to Daly for the tournament. Daly jumped at the opportunity and with Medlin's Finally in 2001, Daly married Sherrie guidance, he took on the lengthy layout with an intoxicating blend of raw power Miller, and they had a baby boy, John Patrick and a deft wedge game. Within the space of four days, Daly went from zero to hero. The golfing world had seen obscure major winners before, but it had never "Daly donated US$30,000 of his winner's seen anyone quite like John Daly. cheque towards the education of two Daly attracted a new demographic to the game. young girls whose father had passed away He was the good ol’ country boy who could hit the that week at Crooked Stick ... [Daly's] ball a country mile; and people who were previously not interested in golf, became interested in him. charitable nature is often left unreported." Attendance began to swell at events in which Daly 60

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Daly II. This marriage seemed to be a case of “fourth times a charm” for Daly, but the couple eventually split after several incidents. Daly’s other troubles also lay in his multiple addictions, mainly alcoholism and gambling. Daly once claimed that when he was 23, he drank a fifth of Jack Daniels every day. In May 1993, Daly was upset after a disappointing opening round at the Kemper Open. He threw his card into the scoring tent, walked off and was disqualified. Later in 1993 Daly was given an indefinite suspension for the 1994 season after quitting in the middle of the Kapalua HKGOLFER.COM

International, and was told to seek treatment for his alcoholism. Many think that Daly’s abusive alcohol consumption is what caused a lack of professional victories, and some very memorable blow up holes. Daly currently holds the record for the most strokes taken on a single hole in a professional event. Daly took 18 strokes to find the bottom of the cup at the 1998 Bay Hill Invitational, when he hit six balls into the water. When John Daly released his autobiography, the generally awful My Life in and out of the Rough, in 2006, he revealed that he suffered from a gambling addiction. He estimates that he has lost HK Golfer・AUG 2011

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Global Traveller: Daly, seen here at the 2010 UBS Hong Kong Open, is truly a world player, despite having a fear of flying

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between US$50 and $60 million over the past 15 years, though he has been able to pay most of it off through paid appearances and sponsorships. Daly’s addictive personality does have a good side though; he is also a compulsive donor to charity. He has been involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Daly also appeared popular among his fellow golfers; there are countless stories of his generosity to complete strangers. For instance, Bruce Smith, who is a PGA teaching professional, had a very memorable meeting with Daly. Smith had the opportunity to play in the 86th PGA Championship, but was playing his practice round early in order to get back to a charitable Pro-Am at his local club for his daughter, who suffers from a lymphatic malformation on a portion of her face. Smith was playing ahead of Daly, but Daly caught up to him on the 16th tee, and the two ended up playing the remainder of their rounds together. The two talked, and Smith ended up

telling John that he had to catch a plane back to his hometown of Dallas to set up a charity event for his baby daughter. Smith told John that he wanted to go into the pro shop to get some items to auction off. Upon hearing this, Daly told Smith that he could do him one better, and get some items from his van sent over to him. As they neared the green, Daly reached into his pocket, pulled out a wad of cash, handed it to Smith, and said, "here, put that in your foundation." Smith just looked at the money, which totalled US$1000, shell-shocked at the generosity that Daly had shown to a man he had just met. Perhaps one of Daly’s greatest acts of generosity took place immediately after the world found out whom he was. After winning the 1991 PGA Championship, Daly donated US$30,000 of his US$230,000 winner's cheque towards the education of two young girls whose father had passed away that week after being struck by lightning in the grandstands at Crooked Stick. Those two girls have now grown up, and have both graduated from college. Daly has had to deal with a lot of unfortunate problems in his life, and we hear all about those problems – the addictive behaviour, and the failed marriages. His charitable nature is often left unreported. Daly entered the 2007 PGA Tour season without full exemption status for the first time since his 1991 US PGA victory. Because of this, Daly had to depend heavily on sponsor invitations, and exemption category 30, “past champions” to gain entry into tournaments. However Daly does have full exemption into the PGA Championship, AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-am, and The Open Championship, up to age 65, as a past champion. In December 2008, Daly was given a sixmonth suspension from the PGA Tour. Daly, who has always had issues with his weight, took this suspension as an opportunity to have LapBand surgery. This surgery basically limits the amount of food that he can consume. When we in Hong Kong last saw him – at the 2010 UBS Hong Kong Open – Daly had lost over 100 pounds, making him a svelte 185 pounds. Though he has complained that he now has nowhere to put his elbows when putting. The past 20 years have been a wild ride for John Daly. He has managed to capture the hearts and imaginations of the golfing world with his fantastic stories of triumph, but at the same time, has shocked us with his selfdestructive behaviour. He has thrilled us with his distance, and surprised many with his generosity. The next few years for Daly may seem unclear, but one thing is for certain: good ol’ John will grip and rip his way through it. HKGOLFER.COM

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