The Guy on the Fairway

This is the first of a series of columns I'll be writing for GOLF MAGAZINE, barring acts of God or writs of libel, so I feel it might be appropriate to introduce myself. I am David Feherty, a Ryder Cup player, 21 years a pro, with 10 victories worldwide and about $3 million in earnings. (The whereabouts of the money remains a mystery, although I do recall having a whale of a time.) My parents think I may have been swapped in the hospital nursery, my liver is the size of Wyoming, my weight normally hovers between 160 and 200 pounds depending on the time of the year, and for some time now I have had this strange feeling that I am turning into an announcer. I've been waking up in the middle of the night saying things like, "Yes, Kenny, it's a 5-iron," and, "No, Gary, we're back on Earth now." Fortunately, my wife, Anita, knows exactly how to unplug me.

I think it's fair to say, though, that if last year seemed like a dream, this year feels like the dream came true. I always enjoyed talking more than playing, and now CBS is paying me for what I do most! I never envisaged playing past the age of 40 anyway, so at 38-plus and in possession of my first real job, the words "Welcome Home" have a special significance for me. It is a new challenge, however, and it takes a little getting used to.

As a player I never really thought much about how a golf telecast was put together. I figured people like Gary McCord and Ken Venturi just got up there and talked. Now I realize that there are about a thousand ways to screw up a show, including a couple of new ones that they've named after me. Hell, it's all I can do at the moment to avoid looking like a deer frozen in the headlamps when someone turns a camera on me and asks me to entertain and inform. But somehow our resident geniuses in the production trailer manage to turn a minute-long on-camera feature from me into something watchable without the aid of George Lucas.

As a foot soldier, there are so many things to remember, like keeping an eye on where your cameras are so you don't appear in the shot, staying downwind so you can't be heard by the players, and being politically correct so you don't get fired. The last is a constant problem for me as my brain has a long record of going on vacation and leaving my mouth in charge, added to which I have always been perfectly satisfied with just being ordinarily correct. In fact, this happens so rarely, I'm usually overjoyed. When I was 20, I thought I knew everything, and then when I reached 30, I realized I actually knew nothing back then. Now that I am approaching 40, I'm starting to see a pattern emerge and, as a consequence, I listen to Ken Venturi's advice very, very carefully.

It's almost like being a player in a game with the television critics. Just like a golfer, we don't get an eraser and our bogeys are the broadcasting burps that all of you get to read about the following morning. Yet so little is known about why some of these minor hiccups occur. Well, as I said earlier, I have been responsible for inventing a few new ones in my short tenure as a shot-jockey, and like it or not, I'm going to share a couple of them with you.

Every viewer is familiar with the unanswered question syndrome. For example, Jim Nantz asks yours truly for a club or a yardage only to be rewarded with a pregnant silence. "How can this happen?" I can almost hear the few of you still reading this ask yourselves. Well, while Jimmy effortlessly smoothes over the wrinkle as only he can, I'm struggling in a Porta-John trying to put my RF (radio frequency) pack back around my waist without dropping the microphone into the can. It's like wearing a 15-pound python that just swallowed a corgi around your waist, with all the pressure on your bladder and lower intestine. I swear it's so effective they should sell the damn things at Eckerd's.

Also, picture this. I'm leopard-crawling toward Greg Norman through the long grass in my Ralph Lauren, CBS-standard-issue camouflage jumpsuit with plastic-cleat knee pads and matching inflatable Goodyear blimp ball cap when the evil McCord spots me from his comfortable perch above the green. As the great man sets up over the ball, I slither close enough to spy the club and, with a silent, weed-eating turn, start to retreat to a safe distance to call the shot. "What sort of shot does he have there, David?" blares in my right ear. Now I've got two options. I can say, "Well, he definitely can't miss this green to the right, Gary" and die almost instantly, or shut up and live. Go figure.

Out there on the links, I'm starting to be recognized by fans as the "guy on the fairway," in stark contrast to my playing days when I was known as "the guy in the rough," and I'm always being asked when I am going to play again. Hopefully, only when I have to. It took me 21 years to realize how small the hole is and what a tremendous stress buster it is when you don't have to aim at it.

The second most popular question is, "What's it like making the transition from player to broadcaster?" Okay, well the main differences I've experienced are as follows: First, somebody else pays my expenses; second, I never miss a cut (this used to happen); and third, I get paid every week (that never happened).

Otherwise it's been easy, what with getting to work with people I've loved listening to for years and getting to watch people suffer like I used to for years. It's been a blast, and the most unexpected bonus of all is that my golf has improved beyond all recognition since I quit. Heck, I watch players make mistakes these days that I would never make if I were in their position. Which I'm not. It almost makes me want to play again.... Almost.

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