No Role Model Young athletes who've burst onto the scene would be wise to read the cautionary tale of John Daly

September 07, 2003

JOHN DALY: LETTING THE BIG DOG EAT--THE BIOGRAPHY
by Gavin Newsham
250 pages
(Virgin Books, $24.95)

Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel, listen up. Here's the owner's
manual for the new life you just stepped into. It's a biography
of John Daly--who like you, Ben, won the British Open, and like
you, Shaun, won the PGA. Remember the hopes golf had for Daly?
Read it well, then. Stuff a copy in your golf bag and slip
another down the throat of the claret jug or alongside the
Wanamaker Trophy. Keep it close at all times, for it begins as a
Cinderella story, as yours have, before devolving into a how-to
from hell that should serve as your personal guidebook on who not
to be and what not to do.

By the time Daly blasted his way into public awareness at the
1991 PGA, his life, like his swing, was already prone to
wildness; we just didn't know that yet. He drank too much, ate
too much, partied too much and gambled too much. But on those
rare afternoons when his mind was clear and his game was on,
those bazookas from the tees and that safecracker's touch around
the greens were breathtaking. The game he played was thrilling
and unique.

Of course, we know the rest by now. Beyond the stunning victories
at Crooked Stick and St. Andrews, there were messy romances and
messier divorces, rehabs and relapses, battles with weight, debt
and depression. The excitement of watching Daly has always been
in the drama: Who will he be this week--the golfer on fire or the
self-immolating man-child? He has kept us alternately gaping and
averting our eyes.

British journalist Gavin Newsham paints a broad picture in this
engaging biography, which is fun to read in the way disaster
movies are fun to see. But breadth isn't depth, and this book
goes about as deep as a divot. The adventures are duly cataloged,
but Newsham never probes for answers. He builds his book
primarily on the legwork of others, cutting and pasting to tell
his tale. Though Newsham interviews Daly friends and associates,
Daly's pervasive voice speaks only through others' notepads and
tape recorders. Given the affable Daly's ON switch, that deserves
a two-stroke penalty.

Still, Daly is Daly, oversized, frustrating and resonant, the
prodigal golfing son we root for, hoping he can right himself.
His is a story we can all learn from. Especially you, Ben and
Shaun.

COLOR PHOTO: VIRGIN BOOKS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)