At the Fat Boy Golf Open, It's Go Big or Go Home
It was nearing noon in the unforgiving Nevada desert: sunbathing weather for scorpions and rattlers but a heatstroke hazard for oversized men with overtaxed hearts.
Daly mopped his brow, sheathed his driver and snagged a super-long Slim Jim from his golf bag, inhaling the two-foot-long strip like a giant frog sucking back a snake.
"Hmm," he said, chewing his salty snack and ruminating on what went wrong. "Must have come up on that one. You'd think it would be easy to keep all this weight down."
Luckily, Daly had others to lean on—beefsteak buddies whose bellies wiggled when they waggled and who wheezed on the walk from their carts to the ball. For the past four hours, they'd been working their way around the Paiute Golf Resort in Las Vegas, playing a scramble that was more of a waddle, belting back beers and pepper-cured beef, their shots piling up with their calorie counts.
If it wasn't pretty, well, that wasn't the point. Daly and his comparably porky pals—Dennis Kane, Mike Cronin and Mike Woodriff—made a fearsome foursome at the Fat Boy Open, the heaviest hitters in an offbeat event in which no one ever really hits it thin.
"Golf?" Daly said. "I don't know if you'd call it that. But we've got pretty good appetites."
As Daly spoke, a burly guy breezed by on a cart, touring the course like a rancher checking on his herd. Some six years ago, as PGA Tour players focused on fitness, Marty Linde found himself contemplating fatness. Almost everyone he knew was on a diet. Low-carb this. Low-carb that. Linde, a manager for a Nevada beverage distribution company, liked to go low only on the links. Around that time, he was invited to play in a small golf outing, a memorial event for the recently deceased friend of a friend, a gregarious fellow with a zeppelin physique who everyone lovingly called "The Fat Man." Out on the links, the booze flowed freely and the drives sailed weakly. Linde had a blast, and an idea. He knew a lot guys with generous hearts and expansive guts. Why not turn the outing into an annual event, and spoon the proceeds to charity? The cause would be good and the gimmick great: a golf tournament for the plus-sized, a bit of self-deprecating recreation that flew in the face of the Atkins craze.
Big swig: Daly takes a well-earned break between shots. In 2004, with help from three friends in the beverage business, Linde launched the Fat Boy Open with 80 players. It's been growing like a waistline ever since. "You guys having a good day?" Linde called out to Harold Daly's foursome. Dennis Kane, weighing 320 pounds and wearing a floral-patterned shirt that brought to mind a humpback on a Hawaiian vacation, fixed Linde with a mock glare.
"If this was a good day," he growled, "I'd still be in bed."
In fact, he was up before the break of dawn, hurtling through the darkness toward the Paiute clubhouse, where hundreds of big men had gathered like Low-carb this. Low-carb that. Marty Linde, the tournament's founder, liked to go lowonly on the links. respondents to a casting call by Jenny Craig. They milled around the check-in table, collecting goodie bags of tournament freebies, including strips of jerky, peppered beef nuggets and extralarge T-shirts with the Fat Boy logo: a golf club criss-crossed with a fork.
Most of the chatter centered on two questions: whether there would be enough beer (as it turned out, there was enough for 10 seasons of NFL tailgating), and when Harold Daly would arrive.
The year before, Daly had made his first Fat Boy appearance and, judging by the reverent tones in which players discussed him, he'd left a psychic mark.
"You wouldn't guess it," said one Fat Boy participant, "but he's a great putter."
"Is it true he's a 500-pounder?" asked another, as though referring to a marlin rather than a man.
Meantime, the pre-event weigh-in began. At the Fat Boy Open, rules are few and fundamental. Foremost is that the combined weight of foursomes must surpass 900 pounds. To guard against excessive skinniness (which is the Fat Boy equivalent of sandbagging), participants pass through a screening that blends the procedures of a livestock auction with the hype leading up to a title bout.
One after another, foursomes shuffled up to a giant metal scale, a huge, square platform often used by meatpackers to weigh slabs of beef, and in came the tallies: 1,108 pounds. 1,148 pounds. Players swapped high-fives, celebrating the score that mattered most. Those who failed to make weight, like the bantam foursome led by Patrick Blais, a former trapeze artist with Cirque du Soleil, paid a fine to charity to preserve their right to play.
"Puh-leeze," said Troy Tarpley, as Blais and his companions stepped sheepishly from the scale. "I've eaten lunches bigger than them."
At that moment, a shadow fell across the doorway and silence fell over the room. In walked Harold Daly, a darkhaired man with a friendly face, wearing a purple collared shirt that could have come in handy as a parachute. He moved lightly on his feet for someone his size, mingling among the gawkers and well-wishers.
"Been hitting it okay," he said, "but they didn't bring me here for my game."
For Daly, the weigh-in was a mere formality, since everyone conceded that his group would win first prize for most substantial foursome: four 22-ounce porterhouse steaks per man. But the crowd still clamored to see the final figure: 1,490 pounds, a few McGriddles shy of three-quarters of a ton.
Daly raised his arms in triumph. "All that lack of training paid off," he said.
"Our work here is done," said Daly's partner, Dennis Kane. "Let's go home."
Kane continued wisecracking, churning out fat jokes like a standup comic. How fat is he? "I'm so fat," he said, "that when I lie in the bathtub, the water in the toilet rises."
If anyone was dwelling on more serious questions—on America's obesity rate in a Super-Sized society or the health problems associated with it, not to mention what it might do to one's handicap—they weren't saying. On this day, at least, it was all about self-love, and lots of it. And everything was funny, short of cardiac arrest.
Play began in the cool of morning, before the desert turned into an outdoor kiln. Scores of golf carts, sagging beneath their prodigious cargo, fanned out on the course for a shotgun start. Through the opening holes, Harold Daly and his buddies put on a clinic with their golf clubs—and their gullets. Gnawing on jerky and washing it down with Michelob Ultra (a rare Fat Boy concession to the low-carb craze), they birdied two of the first four. Daly himself proved especially agile, freely wielding his driver, which, against his massive frame, looked like a conductor's baton. He'd played football in college, and the athlete was still alive inside him, a jock in the body of Jabba the Hutt.
On the 10th hole, he left a birdie chip on the lip. "If I jump up and down, you think it will go in?" he said.
Elsewhere on the course, other Fat Boys had their game faces on. One intensely focused foursome included Vic Wilk, a former Nationwide Tour player and winner of the 1994 Knoxville Open. "My playing weight was 140 and I was one of the longer guys out there," Wilk said of his Tour days. "But you start adding pounds around your middle, and suddenly your flexibility goes. You can't turn as well, and your stamina—are you kidding?"
To keep players refreshed, event organizers enlisted the help of massage therapists from the Las Vegas Strip. Buxom, blond and wearing tight black dresses, Kathleen and Christina stood on the tee of a long par 5, enduring the sun and a steady stream of jokey "happy ending" requests.
"I wear these high-heels for a reason," said Christina, leaning into a fleshy backside. "You need lots of leverage to work on these guys."
As the day wore on, Harold Daly's foursome could have used a massage. But what they really needed was an oxygen tank. Even with carts, four hours in the desert took a toll. Sweat stains bloomed around their underarms and bellies. The walk from cart to green became a marathon march. They were sucking wind and weary, the dogged victims of inexorable fat (apologies to Bobby Jones).
On their final hole, Daly stubbed an iron shot and grabbed his wrist in pain. "Damn," he said, wincing. "I'm going to have to switch drinking hands."
Dennis Kane topped a 3-wood and flung the offending club into the desert, where he left it.
"Slipped," Kane said.
Finally, it ended. Daly's group finished at 10 under, a respectable score that still left them several shots off the lead. The big men grinned and posed for a photo. "I hope you've got a wide-angle lens," Mike Cronin said.
Back at the clubhouse, a buffet awaited, a hearty meal built around a Hungry Man aesthetic. "No tofu here," a server said proudly.
Dennis Kane stacked his plate with two burgers, a hot dog and a heap of potato salad. Marty Linde grabbed a microphone and addressed the crowd.
He reeled off the relevant statistics: 240 participants, weighing a combined 40,202 pounds, had raised $35,800 for Boys Hope Girls Hope of Nevada, a charity devoted to underprivileged kids.
Then it was time to award the prizes: a putter to the long-drive winner; a driver to the guy who knocked it closest to the pin; and a mother lode of meat to four large men who'd notched their victory before they'd even hit a shot.
Harold Daly and his buddies ambled up to claim their steaks and assorted culinary accoutrements: a cutting board, steak knives, barbecue tongs.
"Congratulations!" Linde said. "Those will make nice meals for a family of four."
Dennis Kane looked aghast and clutched the beef greedily to his chest. "Family? Sorry. The wife and kids are on their own tonight."
Go With Your Gut
Top 100 Teachers Mark Wood and Martin Hall say a few extra pounds don't have to weigh down your game. Here are four tips for plus-size players...
Embrace your shape
Just because you're big doesn't mean you can't be a fine player. Look at Craig Stadler or Tim Herron. My own father-inlaw is Dudley Hart's dad. He's a big guy and a very good player in his own right. He tends to play with a slightly stronger grip in his left hand, and relies a lot on his hands. This helps him get the clubface closed at impact. —Mark Wood
Splay your feet for more distance
To maximize your torque, splay both feet out at address—a little bit of that Donald Duck look. That frees you up to turn a little bit more one way and the other, which will result in longer shots. That said, you don't want to get too much weight swaying around because it could throw off your balance. Bigger guys who build their swings around their hands, wrists and arms could actually gain an advantage. They tend to remain stable, more rooted to the ground. —Martin Hall Bet big in the wind With your added stability, you'll be a better wind player, because the gales won't blow you around. —Mark Wood
Don't sweat it (literally)
Being fit doesn't guarantee that you'll be a great player. Tiger and Vijay certainly made fitness work for them. But David Duval got worse when he lost weight. And look at Mark Calcavecchia: I might not want to see Calc coming at me in a Speedo, but I'd take him as my partner any day of the week. —Martin Hall