David Feherty: Commentator or golf legend?
Such is the brilliance of his quick wit and colourful commentary that it is easy to forget that CBS broadcaster David Feherty was actually a professional golfer in his day.
And he was a rather good one at that, with no fewer than 10 professional victories – five of them on the European Tour. He’s a former Ryder Cupper and he captained the Irish team to victory in the 1990 Alfred Dunhill Cup in a career that earned him over $3 million in prizemoney alone. Here in South Africa, he spent some time on the Sunshine Tour, including a win in the 1988 South African PGA Championship, and he met his first wife Caroline, with whom he has two sons, here.
And yet for all his legend of golf status, it is David Feherty’s sharp tongue and comedic timing as a television commentator that have seen his stocks rise, particularly in the United States where he now resides and has taken up citizenship.
“I always enjoyed talking more than playing, and now CBS is paying me for what I like to do most,” he explained. “I’m convinced my Irishness is a huge part of my success over here. Well, that, and I make fun of people. I’m really more of a stand-up comedian who happened to be good at golf.”
David Feherty’s tournament history
Feherty loved the social life of the touring professional, but seemed to fear success more than he enjoyed it. He contended in two Open Championships, playing with fellow golf legend Mark Calcavecchia in the final round at Royal Troon Golf Club in 1989. He claims he knew he was destined to not win that day when he noticed that the American Calcavecchia’s name was spelled correctly on the scoreboard while his was misspelled ‘Faherty’. He finished tie-sixth.
“I didn’t want the responsibility that came with winning a Major. There was always this one pivotal shot – and I would always miss that shot,” he said.
In 1986, David Feherty won the Scottish Open and promptly went on a 48-hour drinking binge. When he sobered up, the trophy was gone and has never been seen since.
David Feherty’s struggle as a golf legend
As with many comedians, David Feherty’s life behind closed doors was not all light-hearted and he fought both alcoholism and depression for many years. While he feels he has got the better of them for now, the golf legend has openly spoken about his problems in the hope that he can help others.
“I was a spectacular drunk,” Feherty says, “the Tiger Woods of drinking. I held court. I was lucid and funny and charming. People gravitated toward me. I was a poster child for excess without consequence. But all along, I was just masking a stunning sense of worthlessness, of being a fraud. I despised myself in so many ways sometimes.”
Feherty’s turning point came through his six-year-old daughter. “She crawled into my lap,” he explains, “and she said, ‘Dad, you need another bottle.’ She looked really sad, so I sent her to get one.”
He replaced his drinking with a far healthier vice – cycling – and the new David Feherty is fitter and healthier than he’s ever been, although he’s been hit by cars or trucks three times. The irony, of course, is not lost on him.
Throughout the ups and downs of his life, Feherty’s satire and impish self-deprecating humour have never left him. “The only thing that kept me alive was my sense of humour. I really believe that’s a
human’s last line of defence. If I can’t make them laugh, I want to make them smile.”
LEGEND OF GOLF: DAVID FEHERTY
Born: 13 August 1958
Turned pro: 1976
First win: 1980 Irish National PGA Championship
Career wins: 10
Ryder Cup: 1991
Books: A Nasty Bit of Rough, Somewhere in Ireland a Village Is Missing an Idiot, An Idiot for All Seasons, and David Feherty’s Totally Subjective History of the Ryder Cup.
GOLF LEGEND DAVID FEHERTY QUOTES
On the chilly air: “I’m freezing my nads off. It’s snot-blindingly cold. There are two lumps in my throat, and I think it’s my raisins.”
On Nick Faldo: “The only time he opens his mouth is to change feet.”
On losing weight: “I lost 150lb if you include my wife.”
On Crooked Stick: “It is so long it’s the first time I’ve had to take into account the curvature of the earth.”
On John Daly’s haircut: “Worst haircut I’ve ever seen in my life. It looks like he has a divot over each ear.”
On Daly at St Andrews: “There are five courses here. He must hit one of them.”
On Colin Montgomerie: “He’s got a face like a warthog who’s just been stung by a wasp.”
On his drinking: “It got to be like a video game, where you get to the highest level and it’s not even a challenge.”
On his swing on a bad day: “It was like a privy door on a prawn trawler in the middle of the Atlantic.”
On Jack Nicklaus courses: “They are like hot air dryers in public lavatories. They are a good idea, but take too long.”
On Tiger’s flatulence: “He can lay ‘em down like a crop duster.”
On Phil Mickelson: “Phil is brilliant, but he’s nuts. There’s something not quite right about that boy. Phil is watching a movie that only Phil can see.”
On one of Tiger’s shots: “Never has my flabber been so completely gasted.”
On a bad shot: “That ball’s so far left, Lassie couldn’t find it if it was wrapped in bacon.”