John Patrick Daly (born April 28, 1966) is an American professional golfer on the PGA Tour. Daly is known primarily for his driving distance off the tee (earning him the nickname “Long John”), his non-country club appearance and attitude, and his hectic personal life. His two greatest golfing accomplishments are his “zero to hero” victory in the 1991 PGA Championship, and his playoff victory over Costantino Rocca in the 1995 Open Championship.
John Daly, the larger than life golf pro, had many addictions. Addicted to fast food, addicted to alcohol, addicted to the cigarettes and addicted to gambling. The fact he managed to win two Golfing majors is a quirk of his sport. How a man carrying a heavy weight, who rarely put in as much practice hours as a you would expect a pro to do, maybe partying all night but could still be a golf professional for the good of 10 years making millions in the bargain, is simply amazing. Putting it simply he didn’t look a golf pro. But he was loved. He was a guy who simply had many problems: gambling debts, four marriage breakups, weight issues, alcohol binges. He had the problems that many people have, and that we can relate to. Usually sports people are perfect; ideal weight, limitless effort to perform at the highest level, millions upon millions in the bank, the perfect life. Here was a guy who was on our TV playing at top sporting events, who looked rough. We liked that, this was a guy who we could understand and appreciate. Unlike the robotic Tiger Woods with the personality of a gnat, Daly always had a huge and cult like following. Though Daly hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since the 2004 Buick Invitational, he remains one of the game’s longest hitters and most popular players. That is why even today he still gets the odd invitational since his name can swell attendances. He also has his own clothing range, book and TV show, all popular with the public.
His first major victory is legendary. In his rookie year on the PGA circuit, he managed to win the PGA championship in 1991. He was lucky enough even to be invited as he was the ninth and final alternate for the championship with Nick Price dropping out and the other eight alternates not able to make it in time. Not enough time to play a first round practice session he power played himself into the lead on the difficult Crooked Stick course. He eventually won the tournament, giving him a three-stroke victory over Lietzke. Daly was subsequently named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. He was also the first rookie to win a major title since Pate won the U.S. Open in 1976. History was made and the legendary stories of “Long John Daly” were born. He had arrived sleeping in the backseat of a friend’s car, probably hung over, just expecting to have a decent outing, enough to avoid going back to qualifying school. Instead he won, and won big. The winner’s cheque of $230,000 was more money than he had ever seen before, and the resulting sponsorship and endorsement deals poured in. From that point on-wards, Daly became one of the most popular players on Tour, building a loyal fan base. He also went on to win the British open in 1995, unexpectedly, after a playoff with Costantino Rocca at St Andrews.
Thing for Daly, though, was that this success highlighted to the public his inner demons and made his addictions and hectic life on show to the whole golf, and sporting, world.
His gambling: According to himself, Daly claims to have lost between US$50 and $60 million over 15 years of heavy gambling. This includes losing $1.5 million in about 5 hours of gambling on the slot machines in October 2005, after winning half that amount at the WGC-American Express tournament, most of it lost on a $5,000 Las Vegas slot machine.
Proof he had a serious addiction was what he said about this incident, “here’s how my sick mind analyzed the situation,” Daly wrote. “My sponsorship payments would be coming through in January, so I’d be able to pay everything off and get back to even by the beginning of the New Year. Everything’s fine. Everything’s OK. No problem. Hell, yes, there’s a problem.”
His weight: A man with a heavy gait, probably due to all the boozing, his weight was always on issue for Daly. He eventually decided to undergo extreme actions in 2009 by doing some lap band surgery to lose over 90 pounds Initially this improved his game, second in the Italian open, but some observers have suggested that this weight loss in fact made him lose some of his power in his swing, his power game. But then the health benefits override that, and he is looking a lot better and happier these days.
His marriages: He married four times, Daly was even charged with third-degree assault for throwing his second wife Bettye into a wall at their home near Denver. Of course the most famous incident is when one of the wives’ attacked him with a steak knife. He showed up for his second round of golf the next day with cuts and scrapes across his face. Authorities were contacted by him and came to his house, but his wife had already fled the scene and taken their children with her. According to Daly, he was awakened by his wife attacking him with a steak knife and shouting, “I will kill you.” Still, though, he made the cut on the golf course, typical Daly tenacity.
Of course, he wasn’t famous for his loyalty and fidelity to his women, often appearing drunk with topless women living the life. Also he had a short fuse as his wife Sherrie Daly mentioned the time John drank a little too much and came home to find that a decorator had painted his house’s walls the wrong colour. “He just came in front of me, his own mother, my sister-in-law, and just started peeing all over the walls.”
His alcohol problems: Now I know the 19th green in Golf is the best hole I can think of playing, but very few, if any other golfers, apart from John Daly, are known for their boozing. It really is such a boring and soulless sport. A big difference between country club to professional, another reason perhaps for Daly’s popularity?
In March 2008, Daly’s swing coach Butch Harmon quit, saying that “the most important thing in his life is getting drunk.” John Daly has rebutted this, in words though, because his actions might tend to suggest he did like to drink a good bit and have a fine time. He once said he drank a shot of JD everyday at 23, was booted off a British Airways flight for harassing a flight attendant while being drunk,, trashed the odd hotel room, teeing off on a can of beer in a pro am as ones does, and at the ’98 Greater Vancouver Open Daly was visibly seen shaking as he tried to play golf obviously suffering from the shakes (we all have experienced this but maybe not on live TV!)
Then there is the famous mug shot when in October 26, 2008, Daly was taken into police custody by Winston-Salem police after being found drunk and a passed out outside a Hooters restaurant. Daly was not arrested or charged with anything. However, the police released his mug shot to the media which resulted in massive negative publicity and a dressing down from the golfing authorities who fined him $10,000. Don’t think it upset his fans too much to be honest.
When Daly missed the cut, instead of going home, or returning to the practice green early the next day, he would go to the bar and hangout with fans, and models, signing autographs and getting his photo taken.. One could argue if this is why he didn’t seem too bothered not lasting into the latter stages of many a golfing competition. This wasn’t a world you would see Tiger Woods or the “character” Ian Poulter anytime, ever!
So what did all these shenanigans do for his golfing game? Apart from a tendency to throw his clubs into lakes and pin his balls all over the place, and citations from the authorities for non trying a record 21 times he, all in all, managed to build a decent golfing career, had decent sponsorship deals, won two majors, and earned enough to live comfortably –if he didn’t squander it all in the casinos. But he doesn’t have the longevity that many golfers do; he now isn’t ranked in the top moneys list so Daly must now depend heavily on sponsor invitations. As far as individual tournaments are concerned, Daly is exempt for life in the PGA Championship and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and up to age 60 in the British Open.
Daly still continues on-wards but his best days are long gone. But he will be forever remembered as the guy who made golf that little bit interesting, and gave hope to all those amateur golfers in that if a guy clearly overweight, nursing a hangover, smoking as he goes around the course can win majors, then there’s hope for the rest of us
John Daly we salute you.
Some of his most famous quotes
“I learned you can’t drink whiskey and play golf.”
“I was never able to have three of four beers. One’s too many, and ten just ain’t enough. Basically it’s the way I’ve been since high school.”
“Everyone has addictions and my problem is that I have 5,000 of them. If it’s not drinking, it’s gambling; if it’s not gambling, it’s eating anything from burgers, doughnuts to M&Ms. The only addiction I don’t suffer from is chasing women.”
“Everybody goes through divorces. There are millions of people that have drinking problems. There are people that their weight goes up and down, just like mine. It’s just life. And I think people relate to that. I really do.”