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The Unfunny Life of David Feherty

David Feherty
Karen Kuehn

There were always signs that David Feherty's charmed life could implode, but when you're the life of the party no one-especially you-wants to let those signs get in the way of a good time. In 1986, he won the Scottish Open, the biggest victory of his career. "They handed me the trophy-a big-ass silver cup," Feherty says. "The oldest trophy in all of sport. I drank all sorts of crap from it. I woke up two days later on the 16th tee at Gleneagles, which makes no sense, because I won the tournament in Glasgow [45 miles away]. I opened my eyes to see blue skies and Peter Gant, the road manager for Led Zeppelin. I hadn't seen him in ages. He's saying, 'You all right?' And the trophy's gone. Just f--in' gone. They never did find it. That was a low point."

"I was a spectacular drunk," Feherty says, "the Tiger Woods of drinking. I held court. I was lucid and funny and charming. People gravitated toward me. I was a poster child for excess without consequence. But all along, I was just masking a stunning sense of worthlessness, of being a fraud. I despise myself in so many ways sometimes."

If hearing Feherty say that surprises you, it shouldn't, because even though he was a Tour player he was never really a Tour player. He was too smart, too funny, too aware of his own fallibility and the absurdity of life to be one of those players who says, "Fairways and greens, one shot at a time." He was creative, but not hit-a-deftwedge creative. It wasn't like that. David Feherty wasn't a professional golfer who happened to be very funny — he was a rare genuine wit who happened to be a very good golfer. He had something other Tour players didn't — a beautiful mind. And that, as it turns out in his case and that of many other hyper-creative people, is as much a curse as a blessing, particularly when the high-capacity brain is attacked by the fraternal twins of self-destruction: boozefueled depression and depression-fueled boozing.

"If you have a soul, that's where it starts," Feherty says about depression, his Irish lilt small and sad, not full of hell like it is when he's working a CBS telecast or starring in a Cobra commercial. "That space that occupies the deepest part of you. It touches every bone and fiber and muscle. It is you. Your mind is like a crowded cafe, with 57 voices chattering at once. You can't tell them apart. You go cold. Your fingers and toes tingle and go numb. You shiver and shake. Your legs ache. Your arms are heavy, like gravity is magnified — like you have a degenerative muscle disease. You curl up and clutch yourself, lying on your side, because that make s it hurt less. And you see things. Hallucinations that you can't banish. The most unspeakable, horrible images play in your mind, like a horror movie you can't turn off. And you..." Feherty goes quiet for a few beats.

"That's another thing," he says. "I have no f---in' idea what I just said. It's the short-term memory loss, the main side effect of the depression medicine. They throw pills at you to see what sticks. I have little blackout periods. Once, I couldn't find the liquor store. I'd been there a hundred times. I'm walking around in a haze, thinking, OK, I know it was here yesterday. Where'd they put it? Now, when I can't find a liquor store, that's saying something."

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