The selling of John Daly - Golf - Yahoo! Sports
LAS VEGAS – John Daly sat in a booth at the Hooters Casino Hotel sipping a Diet Coke and surrounded by merchandise, his merchandise. Suddenly a man who appeared to know Daly approached the golfer whose highly-publicized odyssey has included two major titles, two rehab stints and four failed marriages.
“What are you doing?” the man asked cheerfully.
Daly looked up with a weary smile.
“I’m trying to sell [stuff],” he said. “So get out of the way.”
The man obliged, and Daly got back to hawking autographed pin flags for $40, autographed photos and caps for $20 and autographed golf balls for $10. A woman who worked for the casino stuffed the cash into an oversized envelope. The total would be calculated at the end of the night.
So it goes for Daly, who used to make his money off the course from big-time equipment manufacturers such as Callaway and Taylor-Made. But that was when his game was in decent shape. These days, Daly struggles to make a cut, which is one of the reasons he’s peddling trinkets at Hooters, his last major sponsor. He also tries to cash in on his image with goodies such as:
• John Daly books: An instructional guide that includes suggestions about how to improve the game, such as patrons being strip-searched to keep cameras and cell phones off the course, and an autobiography that includes an account of the day he and his second wife had sex 10 times. The books reportedly made him more than $1 million.
• John Daly wine: The selection of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and a Bordeaux-style blend comes from the man who says he brought his drinking under control by giving up Jack Daniel’s. Daly said he is encouraged by the early sales, which could net him tens of thousands of dollars.
• John Daly golf apparel: Includes $59.99 sunglasses – handy for covering bloodshot eyes.
• John Daly golf clubs: The signature set made by Dunlop sells for less than $200, a fraction of what one could spend on premium clubs.
The Daly Shopping Show goes on the road, as well, its items stored in the trailer he has someone drive from tournament to tournament. But there is no sign of the trailer near this week’s PGA Tour stop in Orlando, where the 2008 season will end. That’s because Daly was not invited.
The invitations, in the form of official sponsor exemptions, used to come easily and often for Daly, even after he slipped out of the Top 125 money winners two years ago. But he has slipped even further and has shown no signs of rebounding at the age of 42. He pocketed just $56,017 in 17 PGA Tour events this season, by far his worst showing since his stunning breakthrough victory at the 1991 PGA championship in Indiana.
The situation now looks bleaker than ever.
Daly was taken into custody Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008, by Winston-Salem police after he was found drunk outside a Hooters restaurant in Winston-Salem, N.C.(AP Photo/Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office)
Last week news broke that Daly had passed out drunk outside a Hooters restaurant in Winston-Salem, N.C., and police had taken him into custody for 24 hours so he could sober up. Police said Daly appeared “extremely intoxicated and uncooperative” when he was found.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Daly said the incident could have been avoided had his friends known he tends to sleep with his eyes open when he’s tired, stressed or has been drinking. He said the driver of his private bus, parked near Hooters, panicked when he saw Daly and called the paramedics, according to AP’s account.
Ironically enough, around the time the story broke, Hooters executives were meeting to discuss plans for a Daly comeback campaign in 2009. One idea they considered was to roll out the details in an exclusive interview with Yahoo! Sports. Once the Hooters incident became public, however, those talks ended.
“We just had a great idea for your new article to write about,” Anna Cladakis, Daly’s girlfriend and a promotional director for Hooters, wrote in an email two days after details of the Hooters incident surfaced. “Purchase a piece of John Daly’s empire…..Golf Course for sale, Prevost Coach for sale, Homes for sale, Hooters Golf Bag for sale, All vehicles for sale…hell everything is for sale!!!”
Though Cladakis made clear that the email was a joke, it served as a reminder of the way Daly and his handlers are trying to milk his bad-boy image and folk hero status. Before it’s too late.
“Daly has succeeded in building his brand by being himself, and has separated himself from the PGA pack in the process,” observed David Carter, a sports marketing expert and professor at the University of Southern California.
The incident at Hooters was only the most recent in a year full of notorious Daly moments, even by his standards. They include: A shot off a beer can in Michigan, a shirtless interview in Missouri, and a mid-round caddie swap in Florida. He couldn’t make cuts, but he could still make headlines.
The Buick Classic incident was vintage Daly. While playing with Kid Rock in the pro-am event, he grabbed a Budweiser from the rock star, who was playing in overalls. Daly teed up his ball on the can and ripped a drive down the fairway that drew wild cheers from the gallery of thousands but admonishment from Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour.
“I never dreamed I’d get called on it,” Daly said.
John Daly and Kid Rock wait their turn on the seventh hole during the Pro-Am round of the Buick Open at Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, Mich., Wednesday, June 25, 2008.(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Or did he? Kevin Mechigian, one of three amateurs in the group at the pro-am, said Daly laughed after the shot and remarked, “I can’t wait to see the fine I get from that.”
The beer-can shot became a YouTube sensation, as did an interview Daly conducted earlier this year when he was playing golf shirtless and in his bare feet at John Daly’s Murder Rock Golf and Country Club in Branson, Mo., that paid him for the use of his name. Asked later about the interview conducted by a Fox TV reporter, Daly said he was told the video wouldn’t be aired and added, “He’s just a guy that wanted to make a name for himself and he lied. Nothing you can do about it.”
Once again, there is another side to the story. Rob Evans, the TV reporter who conducted the interview, said he was waiting for Daly to put on a shirt when one of Daly’s friends blurted out, “Dude, don’t put your shirt on. You’ll get more attention if you don’t.”
“So,” Evans recalled, “[Daly] goes, ‘Aw, what the hell,’ ” Shirtless and barefoot, he continued golfing during the interview. At one point, with Daly’s belly hanging over his jeans, he looked into the camera and said, “I like to have fun. Sometimes the tour gets mad at me. But when you have fun, rumors start spreading that really aren’t true.”
Yet the most controversial damaging series of events involving Daly this season took place during the PODS Championship in Florida in early March.
During a 2 ˝-hour rain delay, rather than joining players in the clubhouse, Daly took cover in a Hooters hospitality tent. He returned to the course with a new caddie – Jon Gruden, head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gruden caddied seven holes before darkness suspended play in the first round, and Daly played 1-over with Gruden on his bag. He later denied rumors that he’d been drinking during the rain delay and said he asked Gruden to carry his bag because Daly’s regular caddie, Peter Van Der Riet, was hurt.
Yet, according to news accounts, as Daly and Van Der Riet drove carts to the parking lot after the round in which Gruden caddied, Van Der Riet called out, “So I’m back in play tomorrow?”
The next week Daly missed his pro-am tee time at Arnold Palmer’s tournament in Orlando,Fla. and was automatically disqualified. Butch Harmon, the famous swing coach, promptly announced he was leaving Daly after a short stint.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden caddies for John Daly during the first round of the PODS Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club on March 6, 2008 in Tarpon Springs, Florida.(Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
“My whole goal for him was he’s got to show me golf is the most important thing in his life,” Harmon told AP. “And the most important thing in his life is getting drunk.”
None of that seemed to discourage Mark Gardner, director of the PGA Tour event in Las Vegas, which was staged in mid-October. Gardner said awarding one of the tournament’s four sponsor exemptions to Daly was a “no brainer” because Daly’s presence would boost attendance. Needless to say, Sin City loomed as a dangerous stop for Daly.
In his 2006 autobiography, “My Life in and out of the Rough, ” Daly estimated he’d lost up to $60 million gambling and that it had become a problem that could “flat-out ruin me”. It should have been no surprise that Daly and his girlfriend arrived with plenty of time to spare when they checked in at the Hooters Casino Hotel.
Of course, getting there was one thing. Getting out for an early tee time in the first round figured to be quite another.
On the morning of the first round, a full moon hung in the sky at dawn as the golfers hit practice balls. It was 6:25 a.m. and still no sign of Daly, who was scheduled to tee off at 7:09 a.m.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he shows up 10 minutes before his tee time, plays five holes, has four cigarettes and leaves,” a tournament official said.
But at 6:31 a.m., Daly arrived with a large McDonald’s coffee cup as his caddy lugged that familiar Hooters golf bag. Before Daly took his first practice swing, he lit his first cigarette. When he finished on the practice range, he moved to the putting green. Robert Garrigus, paired with Daly in the first two rounds, approached the only golfer who was practicing putts while smoking a cigarette.
By way of greeting, Garrigus said, “You’re here early.” Which is to say Daly was on time.
At 7:09, as scheduled, Daly was ready to tee off. He ripped it 300 yards down the middle, but there were no cries of “You Da Man!” or “Go, Long John!” that once accompanied every pounded tee shot.
A placid gallery of a dozen followed Daly during his round of 1-over. That next day, thanks in part to an afternoon tee time, the gallery swelled to about 150 before leveling out to about 40 that, at one point, included two exotic dancers and self-professed Daly fans. They cheered his birdie at the 11th hole, and Daly suddenly showed a glimpse of his old self with a string of birdies that left him one shot off the line heading into the final hole.
He considered hitting a 1-iron but then exchanged it for the oversized driver for which he became famous. He wound up with that hyperextended swing which generates such force and … whoosh.
Daly dropped his head in disgust. The ball sailed left. A brilliant approach shot saved a par, but by a single stroke he missed the cut for the 10th time in 17 tournaments this year.
After exiting the scoring trailer, he hurriedly signed a few autographs as he headed for his courtesy car. He stopped in the parking and talked about his trying season.
“It’s tough because I feel like I’m close, but I’m a guy that needs to play three, four weeks in a row,” Daly said, at the time unaware it would be his last PGA event of the season. “I can’t do what Tiger does. I can’t play one and have three off. That’s incredible. I’ve got to have momentum, be able to build on week to week to week and not getting into the tournaments now makes it tough.”
John Daly hits his tee shot on the 13th hole during the first round of the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open held at the TPC Summerlin on October 16, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada.(Marc Feldman/Getty Images)
Of his fans, he said, “They’ve supported me through thick and thin.” And this was Daly at almost his thickest – physically speaking, that is.
“I’m pushing 260,” he said. “I haven’t weighed that since ‘05. I weighed 282 coming out in’05 and lost a little bit. But I’m going to worry about the weight later. I just want to play golf.”
Asked about the wisdom of staying in a casino hotel given his admitted gambling problem, Daly said he’s not supposed to be gambling during the ongoing divorce proceedings with his fourth wife and added, “I’ve learned to maintain a little bit and I don’t have the money I used to have … It’s a rough time.”
But his mood brightened when asked about his business affairs, starting with the sale of his clubs.
“Having the number one driver in Wal-Mart three, almost four years now, 48 bucks [apiece]. I haven’t heard anybody return one,” he said. “All I’ve heard is everybody loves them. …
“The wine’s starting to hit pretty good. The John Daly line’s doing good.
“I’m just fixing to do a new deal with a company called Falcon out of Condor, Texas. They’ll be doing all my hats and T-shirts and cargo shorts and stuff. And then I’m trying to get Alfa. I’ve been talking to Hooters, they do a lot with a Alfa. They’re a huge, huge shirt company.”
After talking for about 20 minutes, he hopped into the courtesy car with his girlfriend and two other friends and headed back to the Hooters Casino for his 6 p.m. personal appearance.
One middle-aged man scowled when he learned Daly was charging $20 for the autographed photos.
“That’s why he can afford to lose,” the man grumbled as he walked away.
Ninety minutes in, no one was grumbling about prices. That’s because no one was waiting for John Daly’s autograph.
He looked forlorn and fidgety before a friend watching from afar posed for a picture and handed the woman collecting money a twenty.
Still, Gardner, the Las Vegas tournament director, said he thought Daly might have attracted an additional 2,000 fans to the course. At $15 a ticket, that would mean an extra $30,000 without even figuring in money those fans spent on concessions or the tournament’s official merchandise.
Yet Gardner made no guarantees about whether he would grant Daly another sponsor’s exemption in 2009. There’s no telling the condition Daly’s erratic game – and life – might be in when the tournament is held next fall.
“I think we’re all trying to figure out at this point, ‘How much does he move the needle?’ ” Gardner said.
The more crucial question for Daly, as he travels from one Hooters to the next, struggling to find his game and his life, is how long people will buy his stuff – and his act.