October 12, 2012

Dinner with David Feherty

Tuesday night I had the good fortune of having dinner with David Feherty. My brother and my son were also at the table. It was a great evening of stories, jokes and lots of golf anecdotes told by Mr. Feherty.

Now that in and of itself would be an outstanding story if that was all there was to it. However, in full disclosure this was a fund raiser for my high school alma mater. Besides the four I mentioned previously, there happened to have been another say 1250 golf enthusiasts in the same room. It was the single biggest draw they have ever had to this event. It was larger than Tom Osborne in a state known for “Big Red”.

It told me about the incredible drawing power of a golf celebrity. He entertained the crowd for well over an hour with golf stories, jokes and an unexpected poignant review of his life’s path that brought him from war torn Belfast to national and international celebrity. It was his outlook on life that you don’t see much when he is on camera that I’ll briefly share here. I’ll leave the jokes to Mr. Feherty on his TV show.

Mr. Feherty spoke of his early youth being bored with school and deciding he would quit to become a golf pro. At the time he was a five handicap, but he had the desire and after a couple of years was managing to make enough money to support himself. Though he never won any majors, he was a contender in several and came to fame in America playing against Payne Stewart in a pivotal Ryder Cup match. He told how the match was very tight at Kiawah Island. On the 16th green they had to fight through the crowds to get to 17. The crowds are swarming around and a Marshall refused to let him inside the ropes to get to the tee because she did not know who he was. Feherty is about ready to lose a gasket–which is not good in match play. Stewart comes up from behind him, puts his arm around Feherty and says to the Marshall, as much as I would like you to detain him, we best finish our match. Feherty says it wasn’t enough to have his name on the golf bag, or to be wearing a golf glove — it took Payne Stewart to get him past the Local mob.

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Feherty shared his life’s troubles from bouts with alcohol and drugs to an awful divorce. But through it all, he told his story of living a wonderful life because of golf, wonderful friends like Tom Watson who helped him get sober, and his journey to become an American citizen. What struck me in his talk was how passionate he was about America when during this year of election the news and the politicians find nothing but faults.

He said “it makes me very proud to be an American. I have a slight advantage because I have lived in so many places and visited so many places. I know just how great this country really is.”

Feherty attributes his success in his own words as follows: “if you are willing to do the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do, then you can make it in America. It does not matter what color you are, what religion you are, what age you are, that’s the American dream and I’m part of it.”

Most of us came to the event expecting to hear the Feherty we see on TV with the quick wit. And he entertained immensely with jokes and anecdotes. In fact next week I’ll share a few of his Irish jokes in Hit a Provisional. But what we did not expect, and what was appreciated by the audience with numerous rounds of applause throughout was his deep appreciation for his adopted country.

I’ll leave you with one final Feherty commentary. When he went to become an American citizen, he studied everything he possibly could such that he would get a 100% on the citizenship exam. He claims that he even knew Benjamin Franklin’s Dog’s name — Nigel.

But the man he respected above all others was Thomas Jefferson. The words he shared with us are as true today as when Jefferson wrote them over 200 years ago. “Thomas Jefferson said we need teachers and soldiers – everything in between will take care of itself.” If you have great teachers, you’ll produce great kids. Great kids mean great adults which equals a great country. If you have a great country others will want what you have and so you need great soldiers to protect what we have worked hard to produce. Others will see what we have and want to take it for themselves without the responsibility.

It was fascinating to see the complexity of this man who arrived on life’s big stage of celebrity by being in the right place at the right time due to a love of golf. He stepped up when asked, stepped out of a comfort zone multiple times in his career, and now captivates audiences around the world with his biting humor and positive message.

If you would like to hear more detail of some of his golf stories let me know by sending an email to info@fitnessforgolf.com. I would also be interested if you liked this column since it is a little off the normal golf editorial content. Feherty was such an interesting character, I thought you might like to see a glimpse behind the curtain so when he says something that doesn’t sit well with you, at least you know his hearts in the right place.

I for one will be paying a little closer attention the next time I see him on the air knowing how truly funny and at the same time, sincere he actually is. Thanks for reading.

This post was written by Mike Root, the owner of Fitness For Golf

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