I recall a conversation I had with a very Serious Golfer back in the early-to-mid 1990s. You know the type. One of those guys who sees himself as a Guardian at the Gate, protecting his revered, sacred game from all those populists who might tarnish its noble legacy. Where I said something to the effect that John Daly was good for the sport. Not just because his story was so great, going from PGA Championship alternate to last minute addition to champion. But just because he was colorful and genuine and the polar opposite of a lot of the bland, carefully controlled, corporatized drones on the Tour. But before those reasons even came out of my mouth, he kind of jumped down my throat and insisted Daly was terrible for the sport. And then cited every point I didn't get to make to support his argument. For whatever reason, I've never forgotten how angry and condescending Guardian McGatekeeper was in that very short conversation before I ended it.
Well here we find ourselves, 30 years later, and Daly is more than just good for golf. He's a bloody national treasure. Still true to who he was then. A good time, chain-smoking, hard-drinking, Santa-beared genuine article, fond of clothes louder than a Five Finger Death Punch concert, laying down bets and Hooters waitresses in equal numbers.
And as it turns out, Daly has always been a versatile athlete as well. A fat guy Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson, who maybe could've gone pro in two sports, as this unearthed video demonstrates:
Holy cats! A 50 yarder that not only would've been good from maybe 55 yards, but was dead solid perfect. That kick didn't just split the uprights, it bisected the goal post. Using the old school style of the great straight-ahead kickers like Tom Dempsey:
And he did it in sneakers and street clothes, no less! Simply amazing.
Now if you think this was some kind of anomaly, you'd better think again. As it turns out, last year Jim Nantz shared an even more remarkable story about Daly's mighty, left-footed kicking prowess with Golf Digest:
Nantz sheds some light on the night before Daly’s PGA Championship triumph in 1991, when his David vs. Goliath(s) legend was made manifest.
“On Saturday, he was right there. I wish I could tell you the scores but the point is that he was going to be in contention. He was relishing all of the media attention … One of the stories that came out was that he was a high-school place-kicker. So, the Colts were playing pre-season game number one on that Saturday night at the old Hoosier Dome, and the Colts invited John Daly to come to the game as their guest and kick a field goal off a kicker’s tee between the first and second quarters. And he accepted. Gonna try to go blow out my hamstring trying to kick a field goal from 40 yards and have to WD the next day. So of course I went over to cover it … I was just there for one purpose, to see this kick, and John Daly came out and kicked the football and got away uninjured. He was a straight-on kicker by the way. Not a side-winder. Knocked it through and we headed to Sunday to cover one of the great Cinderella Stories sports has ever known.”
Name another athlete in the last couple of generations - or ever, really - who would be cool enough, confident enough, or arrogantly crazy enough to even attempt a stunt like this. Here Daly was facing the final round of a Major that would permanently change his life for the better. And yet he's out dicking around on the field between quarters of a Colts preseason game. And he drilled it. Only to go out the next day and follow it up the next day by hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy:
Forget what I said then about him being good for golf. Three decades later, John Daly is still proving he's good for life itself.