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On This Date in Sports August 11, 1991: The Alternate

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

John Daly, who drove all night to reach Crooked Stick in suburban Indianapolis for the first round, stuns the world by winning the PGA Championship. Daly is the first rookie to win a major since 1976. He had been an unknown on the tour and was the ninth alternate, only playing after Nick Price withdrew for the birth of his first child. John Daly using the motto "Grip it and Rip it," shot a 12 under par 276 to beat Bruce Lietzke by three strokes. 

John Daly was the true everyman golfer. In a sport where most players seemed to come from wealth, Daly was a blue color, hard-drinking, hard-swinging golfer that tried to hit the ball as far as possible while often smoking on the course. He was looked down upon by the elite as a redneck on the course. Daly was born on April 28, 1966, in Carmichael, California. His family moved often, settling in Arkansas. Along the way, he developed a skill for golf and earned a scholarship to the University of Arkansas. John Daly struggled in college and dropped out after two years to attempt to make the professional tour. 

Over the next four years, John Daly struggled to get on the PGA Tour, playing in Asia and South Africa on the Sunshine Tour. By 1990, he found his way on the Ben Hogan tour, where many young golfers seeking to reach the PGA Tour worked on their games. Daly appeared in two U.S. Opens along the way. In 1991, John Daly finally qualified for the PGA on his fourth attempt. 

John Daly had yet to win a tournament on the PGA tour and was the ninth alternate as the PGA Championship came to Crooked Stick Country Club in Carmel, Indiana. A spot opened for Daly when Nick Price withdrew to be with his wife during the birth of his first child. Daly drove through the night and slept in his car to reach Indiana just before the start of the first round, using Price's caddy Jeff "Squeaky" Medlin. Despite being tired from his long drive and not having a chance to practice, Daly shot a three-under-par 69 and was two strokes off the lead after the first round. The leaders after 18 were Ian Woosnam and Kenny Knox. 

The first round was marred by tragedy as a spectator (Thomas Weaver) was killed when he was struck by lightning. It was the second time a major was marred by a spectator death as a fan was also struck by lightning at the U.S. Open in Minnesota. The PGA would set up a college find for Weaver's daughters following the tournament. 

John Daly made his move in the second round, shooting a 67 as he quickly became a fan favorite. Sitting at eight under, Daly held a one-stroke lead over Bruce Lietzke. While most golfers struggled on Saturday, John Daly used Grip and Rip to shoot a 69 and grabbed a three-stroke lead over Kenny Knox and Craig Stadler. 

In the final round, John Daly got off to a rough start with a bogey on the first hole. Before anyone had a chance to make a move, Daly shut it down with a birdie to get back to -11. After a birdie on the fifth hole, Daly had stretched the lead to four strokes. The lead would balloon to five strokes, with birdies on 13 and 15. The only flaw of the day, as a double bogey on 17, which was a mere bump in the road, as John Daly won by three strokes, completing the Cinderella Story.