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May 19

Feherty and Golf’s Image

Humorist/Golfer Feherty Shines the Light on Golf’s Many Faces

In history and its iconic literature, the fool is an important character, and the term doesn’t mean what the modern word means, In Shakespeare, the fool is more hip, more clever, and shines the light of commentary on all the self-images people are trying to sell. We all have an image we’re peddling. Some of us are just better salesmen than others. David Feherty is our Shakesperian fool. Call him whatever you like, but that simply serves to reveal your chosen self-image. He’s coming from a more honest place than most, and many of us fear that.

feherty Feherty, a former pro on the European and PGA tours, has suffered horrible times in his own life, and doesn’t use humor to mask it. He’s fallen to deep dark places for the human soul, and lived to tell about it. He’s not funny for want of attention, and he’s not funny to be mean-spirited. It’s how he sees and reflexively responds to the world, and how his inner gears work – can’t be helped. At times, it’s how he gets by.

The commentary says a lot about the spectrum of tradition to modernity in golf. Feherty is right, for example, in saying that “The Masters doesn’t do comedy,” and that he feels as though he’s been surgically “clenched” for just that week. It’s not Feherty that’s revealed in his rantings about the Masters. It’s turning the light on a self-absorbed old Southern white aristocracy reenacting a dead myth, an aristocracy that can’t laugh, making them the perfect target for “Emperor has no clothes” humor.
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Most of Feherty’s targets join in the humor willingly, although some do not. Descriptions, for example, of Jim Furyk’s swing as “an octopus falling out of a tree,” or “a one-armed man wrestling a snake in a phone booth” have become priceless and iconic quips in golf’s pantheon of wits. Another type of Feherty commentary goes to the players themselves, but you don’t see hatred, just light-hearted observation. He holds a special looking glass on Phil Mickelson, observing that “something’s wrong with that boy – he’s watching a movie only Phil can see.” He paints a picture of Mickelson wearing a football helmet to the age of four to buffer his constant bumping into things, and generally likens him to “a drunk chasing a balloon along the edge of a cliff.” Wherever overly-serious tradition or conviction is to be found, there will be David Feherty. He is not afraid of sacred figures, neither Nicklaus nor Player, characterizing the latter as being put out because you can’t win a major anymore “with a low flat hook and a Napoleon complex.”

As an Irishman, alcohol humor can scarcely be absent, despite Feherty’s past with the subject. After winning the Scottish Open, he woke up on a course 45 minutes away, and had lost the cup, which has never been seen again. He has lived through torturous hallucinations and despair of such a magnitude that his grip on life itself threatened to give way.  He has been injured while cycling in a collision with a truck. And yet, he is not callous or given to masking his empathy for all manner of people in similar despair or living the life of a victim. As the Don Rickles of the golf world, it is worth remembering that Rickles has been beloved in Hollywood for the same qualities – the rest is commentary – shtick – humor.

Every era and industry needs a “fool,” in the Shakespearian sense, even if we need to wade through a thousand golf shot metaphors (“That came out of the rough like a dead mouse out of a cornfield.”). While we’re peddling our self-image, Feherty’s peddling his – putting playful banter and mostly amusing commentary over all of it – the serious and the mundane.
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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.