Public conception has changed a lot since the 80s. It is no longer viewed solely as a leisure activity where dentists can meet other dentists on weekends and where golfers would make derogatory remarks about minorities without fear of reprisals. It is now a sport that can be enjoyed by young people and where black guys are allowed to join clubs. And not just as caddies.
Still, the game itself seems dull to me. I don't know how much excitement I can generate where the main objective of the game is to hit a white ball into a little hole far, far away from where you started. Along the way you try to avoid pits of sand, large bodies of water, bodies floating in the water, alligators, trees, my father's head, land mines, lava pits, gophers and lawyers. That's about it. No body tackles, shoving of any kind and most clubs frown upon anyone brandishing firearms in public. You tally your score at the end of the day, lie about it to your friends and spend the night fuming about the putt/s you missed.
There is a golfer that seems larger than life though, in more than one sense. The man in question is John Daly, who is like the town drunk that happens to be a maestro of his craft. He is too good to be true. A thrice divorced golfer with an estimated $50 to $60 million dollar gambling loss weighing on his flabby shoulders? A chain-smoking, chain-drinking slob who'd rather play slots than practice his swing for a tournament? The guy is like an overweight Happy Gilmore.
Daly takes a quiet moment to assess the situation. And have a smoke. And to keep a weary eye on wandering alligators
The John Daly story I'd like to recount is not the one involving a wife attacking him with a steak knife. It is the one that was told to me by Steve Holt about a week ago.
Some years ago John Daly was winning some comp by a few holes. I don't know which tournament or where. As I said I'm not a golf fan. Pebble Beach? Could be Pebble Beach. It doesn't really matter I guess. So, there's John Daly. Winning the game at Pebble Beach at this stage. His ball has rolled into some shitty place where there's a lake in the way. A lake filled with dangerous alligators. The ball has, I think, rolled into the lake. Or something. The mud near the lake perhaps. John Daly is given the (sensible) option of placing the ball in a better place (i.e. not in mud) but he waves this option. 'I can make this shot,' says John Daly. He swings. The ball rolls an inch. He says a few unprintable things. He is again given the option of moving the ball onto solid ground. John Daly shakes his head. He swings again....
...the ball barely moves.
...and screws it up.
John Daly has given the game away by now. His fans are aghast. But still he is at it, still he is determined. Finally...SMACK! He hits the ball squarely and onto the green. 'I f-ckin' knew it!' he roars in triumph.
In a world where former greenskeepers probably won't become champions, and guys who obsesses about ice hockey won't take up golf, we will probably have to rely on true sportsmen to fight the good fight for the rest of us. People like John Daly who will not budge to pressure no matter what.