Of all the golfers who have ever appeared in the PGA Tour, few have been more polarizing and beloved than John Daly. Even though he had a fairly up and down career with his fair share of struggles, he is still a legend of the sport.
From the time he was in high school, Daly was a varsity level golfer and football player. He was a state champion in Missouri for golf and still holds several kicking records for a high school kicker. After high school, he went to college and decided to focus more on golf and became a member of the golf team at the University of Arkansas. But, before graduating, he would leave college to become a pro golfer.
Daly turned professional in 1987, played well, and eventually joined the PGA Tour in 1991. In that same year, he won the PGA Championship, being the first rookie to win a Major until the mid 1970’s. This win garnered him a ton of media attention and made him a fan favorite as it was a true underdog story. He was actually an alternate for this tournament and only was able to play due to Nick Price dropping out. The virtually unknown Daly went on to dominate over the weekend and win the tournament and was later named the PGA Rookie of the Year for 1991. His underdog story as well has his extremely powerful swing garnered him a cult-like fan base (largely composed of totally new golf fans) and as a result, he became one of the most popular players on the tour.
While he would only win two majors and have 20 total wins in his career, it wasn’t his golf prowess that got him so many fans, it was his “wild thing” reputation both on and off the links. On the course, John Daly can regularly be seen with a giant cigar in his mouth at all times and usually has some of the more “interesting” attire choices on the tour. On top of his looks, his play and somewhat erratic attitude on the course has gained him a lot of attention. From breaking spectators camera to his amazing ability to somehow being hit multiple balls into the water on certain holes (I’m talking seven on a single hole, at the 2011 Australian Open), his antics certainly make for must see TV.
And off the course, he continues his wild persona. Daly has struggled with alcohol for quite a while and in 2008, his swing coach even quit and said that getting drunk was the most important thing in Daly’s life. In 2008, he was arrested outside of a Hooters for being intoxicated and that was the wakeup call he need to give up booze, and he no longer drinks. But not everything about the guy is wild as he is very charitable and gives generously and he loves to sing country music and has even released two albums.
Whether you love him and his antics or hate them, there is no arguing that he has been one of the most entertaining and popular things about gold over the last few decades.