The invisible man

The invisible man

Hey, I wrote a book! Since I became a writer and broadcaster, I’ve always maintained that I have never missed playing golf for a living, Even back in 1976, when I turned pro at the age of 17, I said that I didn’t want to play past the age of 40, which, of course, seemed centuries away. I suppose I’ve been lucky enough to find a substitute for whatever it was that gave me the high, but there is one thing I miss about competing: Facial recognition. In 20 years of playing, I made the kind of money that would now qualify as a bad eight weeks for Tiger, but still, every now and then someone would recognize me and ask for my autograph, or make me feel big in some other way. No matter what anyone says, it feels really good to be famous.

Things have been a little different since I moved to this side of the Atlantic, though. You see, on the European Tour, there is an entirely new cast of characters, for whom the great David Feherty is not even a memory. I was history before half of these whipper-snappers showed up, and as for most of the guys with whom I did play, I’m just another V-necked bad-hair-day photo on the wall in a clubhouse in Madrid, or Cannes, or Munich, or wherever. I defected to America, but apparently Europe is managing just fine without me.

Here’s the strange thing: Everyone who knew me in Europe thinks I’m now famous over here, and everyone here thinks I’m famous over there. But in reality, these days no one knows who the hell I am anywhere! Sure, there are bunches of people who recognize the voice, but even they have a tendency to guess wrong. In the lobby of the Hilton, at last year’s Shark Shootout, an elderly polyester lady sporting a day-glo orange golf glove was one of the few that pegged me right. She stopped me, and, wagging an orange finger in my face, said, “You’re that Feherty fellow on the TV, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” I said, heartened that someone had made a positive ID. “Nice to meet you!”

She looked me over with a sigh and said, “You sound thinner.” Then she walked off.

Thank you. Thank you very much. Apparently, TV takes 10 pounds off your voice.

There is something to the theory that a disembodied voice renders its owner less recognizable. For instance, I was at DFW airport just the other day to pick up my parents, who had flown in from Ireland for a visit. (Dad drank so much on the plane, Mom had to pay duty on him to get him into the country, but that’s another story.) Both of my parents were looking all about for their only son, but walked right past him as he opened his arms and smiled a “Welcome to the New World” kind of smile. Brandt Jobe, who lives here in Dallas and occasionally does recognize me, was also there, struggling to get a giant rolling sack of golf clubs off one of the carousels. We exchanged pleasantries as the wrinkly ones sailed past, and then my mother heard my voice and began to strenuously elbow Father. There followed a battle of wits and agility between my parents and a fully loaded “Smarte Carte.” Eventually they got turned around and headed back toward me. I would have helped, but it was too entertaining. It was like watching two elderly starfish attempting to change the course of the Titanic. Brandt, sensing a tender family moment was imminent, ran away.

Dad had noticed I’d been talking to someone, and after much hugging, etc., said, “I see someone knew who you were.”

Hmm, I thought. He’s right. I used to be David Feherty.

My father is very proud of me, and is at that stage in his life when it’s an achievement for him to know who he is, so I declined to point out that if he and my mother didn’t recognize me, it would seem at the very least unlikely that a member of the general public would. After all, they were staying for three weeks; I figured they’d know who I was by the time they had to go home.

I suppose if I were to be honest, I really do miss playing golf for a living, at least a little. I remember after playing well what it felt like trying to make my way through a swarm of reporters, all of whom wanted a few words with the guy in form. It was fun to be the benevolent king: “Yes, my people, come to me!”

Now, I’m just one of the swarm, and it often seems like the king isn’t as benevolent as I remember being myself. I hate getting the Heisman move from a player. The player’s ego left in me wants to interview itself instead. “Hey, up yours, pal. You’re lucky to be on TV anyway!”

It would work once, but then I might have to go back to playing for a living.

If there is a worst part to my TV job, it would be the interviewing. I seldom get to ask my own questions, and a lot of the time I’m talking to someone who really doesn’t want to be there. Yeah, I can hear you all now: “That poor man, how he must suffer.” Thanks, but it’s okay. I’ll pull through, because I still have my writing, which is the most satisfying thing I do. It’s certainly the aspect about which I receive the most feedback. Well, it’s kind of like running, I suppose, in that the nice part is having written. As long as somebody reads it that is. The actual doing is a bit of a pain, like a homework assignment, and the book from which an excerpt appears earlier in this issue was the longest assignment in the history of homework. I mean, it could be measured in geological time. It was like being literally constipated for 20 years, and then suddenly discovering Mr. Ex-Lax, or “George Peper,” as we call him round here. The first three chapters took 19 years, 111/2 months, and the remaining 15 took 10 days. I have no explanation for the change, except maybe I finally realized that there were people out there who were willing to listen to what I have to say. All of a sudden, Mr. Ego got fully engorged! When you think about it, it’s probably the only reason anybody ever writes a book. You can get folk to listen to you, without ever having to talk, and therefore find out who you are. Hang with me here; I think I’m making a self-discovery. Ernest Hemingway managed to communicate with countless millions without any of them finding out he was a total mental case, so why shouldn’t I?

At the end of the day, all of us want to be loved and told that we’re special. A writer gets a fair idea of the regard in which he is held when he tries to get quotes for the dust jacket from other writers. My favorite came from my 9-year-old son, Rory. Upon being shown the book, his first words to She Who Must Be Obeyed were, “I didn’t know my dad could write!”

There’s nothing like your kids to keep your ego in check. It’s like my dear old Dad always told me: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”

Now buy the book, you swine.

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