History of the PGA Championship: Part two
- Credit: Pinnacle Photo Agency
In our latest golf history series from Axe Cliff member Kyle Phillpots, we look at John Daly’s PGA Championship.
Following on from the underdog victory of Francis Ouimet in the US Open, the ‘zero to hero’ performance of John Daly is a story worth telling.
John Daly came from an ordinary family, with his father being a construction worker and the family moving often between small towns. Daly took up golf from an early age and played at different clubs as the family moved around.
He did well at the sport and, although largely untutored in golf, developed not only a swing that gave him great distances, but also an exquisite short game..
He spent some time playing on the various minor tours in the USA and also played on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa.
He tried to qualify for the PGA Tour but failed in his first three years, before finally making it in 1991. He played well that year but not well to qualify for the PGA Championship.
He was the 9th reserve for the tournament and by Wednesday evening he had all but given up hope, when he got the call that there had been a number of withdrawals and he was now the first reserve.
With the Championship starting the next day, he drove from Memphis to Indianapolis (around 500 miles) just in case. Arriving at 3am, he found out that Nick Price had dropped out due to his wife giving birth and Daly was in.
He’d never played the course and he had no caddy. Fortunately, Price had an afternoon tee time and his caddy, the delightfully named Squeaky Medlan, was suddenly without a bag.
Daly went out and played his ‘grip it and rip it’ style and was 3 under and in eighth place after the first round. Two more under par rounds saw him three shots ahead at the start of the final round. He kept his nerve, kept bombing drives and sinking putts and won by 3 shots.
His first professional win was a major and he later followed that up by winning The Open at St Andrews in 1995.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have quite the same success in later life as Ouimet. While his prodigious ball striking set a new bar for other to follow and his short game skills remained sublime, his drinking and gambling took over his life.
He estimates that his gambling losses are between $40 and $50 million, including $1.5 million in an hour in a Las Vegas casino.
He has been thrown out of tournaments, walked off during a tournament because of the shakes and been married four times, and arrested several times. He is always entertaining but not always for the right reason.
In 1998, at the Bay Hill Invitational, he tried to hit his second shot to the green on the par 5 sixth hole, requiring a 270-yard shot with his 3 wood. His ball went into the water but rather than taking a drop by the water, Daly opted to try the shot again.
He was perhaps inspired by the film Tin Cup, which had come out two years before. In that film, the golfer played by Kevin Costner plays the final hole in the US Open and wants to reach the green in two, something he has done in each of the previous three rounds.
It goes in the water and stubbornly decides to try again, and again and again, finally making it, and holing it, with his 12th shot. Daly did even better hitting 6 shots into the water and walking off with an 18.
He is now an occasional player on the Champions Tour in America and plays other events around the world.
As a past winner, he can play in the PGA Championship for life and similarly The Open up to age 65. He goes to the Masters each year, but instead of competing, sets up his RV in Hooters car park and sells his merchandise.