Frantz: Daly’s great talent — letting it go to waste

It was a New York City bus driver in the Bronx by the name of Lorenzo Anello who said it best, while trying to teach his young son Calogero an important life lesson. “The saddest thing in life,” the blue-collar told the boy, “is wasted talent.”

Too bad John Daly never spent the eight bucks it cost to watch “A Bronx Tale” back in 1993. Might have been worth his time.

For those of us who continue to watch in awe as the greatest athlete of our time, Tiger Woods, erases the PGA record book and replaces it with his own autobiography, it is equally spellbinding to watch the man who could have been Tiger’s greatest rival drowning in a sea of his own failure. And alcohol. Don’t forget the alcohol.

Since winning the PGA Championship in 1991 at age 25, and following it up with a British Open title in 1995, we’ve been enamored with Daly’s prodigious talent, while staring slack-jawed at his equally-prodigious appetite — for everything. We’ve watched him attack booze, buffets and broads with far more ferocity than he’s attacked the practice range, and as a result, we’ve seen his unmatched power and his silky-smooth putting stroke end up like the man to whom those wondrous talents had been given: wasted.

Daly’s official Web site, in which visitors are welcomed to “The Lions Den”, begins with a paragraph running through his accomplishments, including the two aforementioned major championships and little else. The next line on the home page reads, “There is a lot more to John Daly than golf.”

It is the understatement of the millennium. Truth is, PGA Tour officials would be delighted if Daly played enough golf to be able to say, “In addition to his many other interests, Daly also golfs.” But he can’t.

Consider: In the past two weeks alone, Long John has been fired by his own employee (swing coach Butch Harmon); dumped his caddy during a rain delay at the PODS Championship in favor of former Raiders coach Jon Gruden; missed his tee-time at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Invitational Pro-Am, resulting in his disqualification from the actual tournament; and has not been invited back to participate in this summer’sTelus World Skins Game at Predator Ridge in Canada, an event in which he is the two-time defending champion. Seems like the only place he’s welcome these days is at Hooters, which remains proud to have an obese, beer-swilling, bimbo-chasing glutton as its public spokesman. It’s a perfect partnership, really — a restaurant that features greasy wings served by greasy women in greasy, barely-there t-shirts, endorsed by a man who has become a grease stain on the reputation of the PGA.

Harmon, in discussing his refusal to work with Daly any longer last week, cited Daly’s lack of interest in working at his profession. “The most important thing in his life is getting drunk,” Harmon said. That fact, in and of itself, is what angers true fans of the game the most.

Daly’s problems aren’t physical — they’re self-inflicted. Of course, one could argue that addiction is a physical ailment, but Daly cannot claim any sort of physiological impairment the way someone like, say, Casey Martin can. He has always had the ability to become a golf immortal; someone who could rise up and challenge a talent such as Tiger Woods every weekend. Instead, he has chosen to challenge the limits of personal excess every weekend, and that is indeed a tragedy.

Then again, if it doesn’t bother him, should it really matter to us? Maybe we should all subscribe to the Daly Philosophy of Life: When life has got you down, happiness is just a carton of smokes and a 12-pack away.

Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at bfrantz@examiner.com.

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