There is only one Long John DalyBy DAVID W. HEALY (COLUMN),
For the last eight years, I have been volunteering for the annual PGA Tour stop in Memphis, the FedEx St. Jude Invitational. It is now scheduled for the end of July, but it is looking like they won’t need my services as a marshall on the 16th hole.
Nothing is official, but since fans will probably not be allowed on the course due to the coronavirus pandemic, there will likely be no need for marshals like me. Which is sad because I always look forward to the week.
Disappointing yes, but not the end of the world.
What would make things worse, however, is if Tiger Woods chooses to play in Memphis for the first time in his career, but no fans (or marshals!) get the opportunity to see him. Since the Memphis tournament is now a more prestigious World Golf Championship, there is a good possibility that Tiger comes this year, but we will only be able to see him on TV.
Over the years, I have really enjoyed volunteering at the tournament. As a huge golf fan, I get an up close look at all the big stars of the game. There are about 10 marshals who work the 16th hole during a shift. We are spread out from the tee-box to the green. I usually don’t get a chance to work the tee box (it is a coveted position and I am happy to work anywhere) but when I do, it is a treat.
Working the tee box as a marshall is a tricky job. As the professionals are teeing off, I hold up a big orange sign to let those near the fairway know which direction the ball is headed. The trick is to be patient before signaling which direction the ball is headed. Even when the ball looks like it is going in one direction, by the time it hits the ground it can be on the complete opposite side of the fairway. It is not a good feeling when you get it wrong, but fortunately no one has been hurt.
One of the things about being a marshal is you have to be humble. Most times the players do not even acknowledge that you exist. It is understandable. These professionals are playing for hundreds of thousands of dollars and are totally focused on the job they are doing.
The one exception to this rule has been John Daly.
A few years back, I was working the tee box and had gone the whole day without one golf pro giving me a moments thought. But then, big John Daly walked to the tee box looked right at me, smiled, nodded his head and said, “How’s it going?”
I replied, “I am doing great John. Give it a big rip.”
“You got it,” he said.
He put the ball on the tee, and a few moments later.
It was a sound only J.D. could make.
As he picked up his tee and walked down the fairway, I thought to myself, “This is why John Daly is so popular.”
Even though he was more famous than most of the other golfers out there, he was still down-to-earth enough to be friendly to a nobody like me.
This is why I think we are so forgiving of John Daly and all of his flaws. Sure, he may have his problems. But, most of us either have similar problems like him or have people we care about with these same problems. When you care about someone enough, you are willing to forgive them even when they keep making the same bonehead mistake over and over.
Perhaps, what makes John Daly so likable is also part of his undoing. Trying to make everyone like you, comes at a cost.
But, all I know is that John Daly was friendly to me when he certainly did not have to be. I will always be a fan of his no matter how many more times he screws up.
David W. Healy is the sports editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.