Sept. 26, 1994
Sept. 26, 1994

Table of Contents
Sept. 26, 1994

SI Bonus Section: Golf Plus
College Football
Horse Racing
Pro Football
Steve McNair
Alexi Lalas
SI 40th Anniversary
Point After


Still Falling

This is an article from the Sept. 26, 1994 issue

The new that John Daly had voluntarily left the PGA Tour for the rest of the year brought a collective sigh—not only of relief but also of deep concern—from his peers. There is a sense among Daly's colleagues that self-destructive forces are building up inside the troubled young man and that he must take stock before something awful happens.

Earlier this year Daly, 28, seemed to be on the road to stability. Less than two months after returning from a four-month suspension during which he underwent alcohol rehabilitation, he won the BellSouth Classic. But divorce proceedings and a child-custody battle, not to mention the glare of the spotlight, have increased his stress. In the last two months there has been plenty of evidence that he is becoming overwhelmed.

At the Scottish Open in July, Daly made unsubstantiated claims of drug use among PGA Tour players. A few weeks later, en route to a final-round 83 in the World Series of Golf, he repeatedly hit drives into the group playing in front of him, which led to an embarrassing post-round scuffle with the father of one of the players in that group. At the Presidents Cup last week, Jay Haas, a member of the Tour's policy board, spoke for most of his peers when he said that Daly's leave-taking was "good for John and good for the Tour. John needs a break."

Daly, who has a $30 million, 10-year endorsement contract with Wilson, should use the break wisely, because he is on the verge of losing the respect of his colleagues and fans. The consensus among Daly watchers is that he needs strong management rather than yes-men, and friends and associates who will make him understand that he is not the victim he continues to portray himself to be but an adult responsible for his actions as well as an immensely talented golfer with a responsibility to his gift.

"If I could help John, I'd start with a big bottle of patience," said Davis Love III, who has a friendly relationship with Daly. "His celebrity has gotten so big that he can't handle it, and he's gotten so impatient with his life that it's like he's saying, 'The hell with everything.' I just hope he uses this time to figure out that's not ever going to be the answer."

A Rib Was the Rub

As commissioner, Deane Beman commanded the PGA Tour from March 1974 until last June. And he ran it pretty much the way Gen. Douglas MacArthur ran Japan: somewhat more imperiously than the emperor. Beman, who oversaw the launch of the Senior and Nike tours, cultivated an image of aloofness and power. Critics called him combative.

Yet last week at the Bank One Senior Classic in Lexington, Ky., Beman was effortlessly charming. He had hoped to make his Senior debut at the event, but a strained muscle in his rib cage forced him to bow out before the first round. "I'm ready for another challenge, and this is it," said the 56-year-old rookie. "I've always been competitive, and that didn't stop because I was doing something else." He's guarded about his goals as a Senior, saying, "In the short run they're realistic; in the long run, ambitious."

A two-time U.S. Amateur champ who won four Tour events, Beman has played only sporadically since he became commissioner. His last tournament was the 1990 Seniors British Open, which he led by three strokes after three rounds. Gusting rain fogged up his glasses, and he finished double bogey, double bogey, bogey, bogey to lose by a stroke to Gary Player. "I could have solved the problem by taking the glasses off," he says wistfully. "It seems so simple now, doesn't it?"

Beman has new contact lenses but old clubs: a set of Callaway irons and a Bull's-eye putter that has been lying around his garage for 25 years. No Pings. The biggest blot on Beman's PGA escutcheon came from his ban of square-grooved clubs, including most notably Ping Eye2s, from the Tour in 1990. The resulting lawsuit cost the Tour several million dollars and, some claim, hastened Beman's exit.

That's chump change compared with what he brought to the Tour: Under his direction purses grew from $8 million to $100 million. Says Senior player Jim Colbert, "Deane provided the opportunity for some of us to go through our entire lives without a real job. And he's responsible for golf being the only major sport without player-owner controversies. Baseball is on strike. Football, basketball and hockey have salary-cap problems. Without him it might have been PGA players versus sponsors."

Such praise, however, is not universal. "—— Deane Beman!" says Dave Hill, one of dozens of Seniors Beman fined last spring in a purse-splitting scandal. "His return is——. He took money away from players who needed it at the same time he was making a million and a half dollars a year. He ain't gonna be too damn welcome on the Senior tour." That sentiment is seconded by Hill's younger brother, Mike: "I don't have anything good to say about Deane Beman, so I guess I won't say anything."

Beman remains unruffled. "I think these guys can separate the job I had to do from who I am," he says. "And now I'm a golfer, just like they are." Beman's successor, Tim Finchem, has joked that Beman will be banned from attending player meetings for two years. "I'm gonna appeal," says Beman, smiling. "But I'm not sure I wanna appeal."

A Drive-Away Drive
It's one thing when your ball strikes a caddie, quite another when it strikes a Caddy. At the pro-am before the Bank One, an errant shot from the 17th tee shattered the rear window of a Cadillac Sedan De-Ville parked behind the 15th tee. The car was supposed to be the prize for a hole in one on that par 3 during Sunday's round. The anonymous pro or am who sliced the shot didn't bother playing the lie—at the end of the day the ball was still on the Caddy's backseat. "You have insurance here?" joked Lee Trevino, who shills for Cadillac. "That may be my car."

Ironclad Preference

The contrasting styles of irons used by the players on the teams in the Presidents Cup provided insight into golf-equipment marketing. On the U.S. side, seven of the 12 players used investment-cast, perimeter-weighted irons, which tend to produce more distance and have a larger effective hitting area. On the International side, only Fulton Allem used that style of club. The other players used traditional, forged-steel irons, which are thought to have better feel and distance control.

On the PGA Tour as a whole, most players still use the forged blade. But that is not true for some of the U.S.'s brightest stars, whom manufacturers seek as endorsers of the investment-cast clubs, which have become more and more popular among average golfers. Four members of the American team in particular—Fred Couples, Davis Love III, Corey Pavin and Hale Irwin—have major contracts that require them to play investment-cast irons.

In contrast, only one of the International players who competed, Nick Price, is well enough known in the U.S. to command a huge endorsement contract, and he has insisted on playing forged clubs. Allem himself played forged irons until this year, when he was offered the best club contract of his career to play investment-cast irons. The rest of the International players, who don't have the name recognition to command huge dollars, have decided to stay with forged irons.

The world's best players are entering the so-called equipment revolution cautiously, and for most professionals, control will always be more important than distance.

A Shining Star

In less than two years on the Senior tour, Larry Gilbert has amassed more than $1 million in prize money. This from a former Kentucky club pro who had only $4,000 to his name before joining the circuit, who was denied a request for $15,000 in Senior seed money by the company whose clubs he had used and promoted for 25 years and who as a teenager in the mid-'50s picked up pocket change by shining combat boots at Fort Knox. One of Gilbert's frequent customers at the Army base was Walt Zembriski, then a PFC, now a veteran of 10 Senior campaigns. "I don't remember if Walt was a good tipper," says Gilbert. "But if he was anything like he is today, I doubt it. Walt likes to hold on to his money."

Would the 32nd-ranked Zembriski let the 11th-ranked Gilbert shine his shoes? "Shine my shoes!" says Zembriski. "I'd rather have him caddie for me."

ILLUSTRATIONJEFF WONGTWO PHOTOSPAT MCDONOUGHThe hopes Beman (above right) had of playing weren't all that got shattered last week in Lexington.PHOTO