DAVID FEHERTY ON COM­EDY AND TRAGEDY

A­er los­ing a son, Feherty re­lies on his sup­port team to live a com­plex life of his own.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - By John Fe­in­stein

IT’S A RAINY NIGHT IN GE­OR­GIA, AND DAVID FEHERTY IS ON FIRE.

He has been on stage at At­lanta Sym­phony Hall for al­most two hours, and those in the au­di­ence of about 1 200 have only stopped laugh­ing when one of his sto­ries brings them to tears of hys­te­ria. ▶ “Tiger Woods is fun­nier than peo­ple know,” Feherty says at one point. “When I was walk­ing with him for CBS, he used to pull the brim of his hat down low so the cam­eras couldn’t pick up what he was say­ing – he was con­vinced every­one watch­ing could read lips. ▶ “One day he says to me, ‘Hey, Farty,’ – that’s what he called me – ‘do you know what you call a black guy fly­ing an air­plane?’ ▶ “I said, ‘No, what?’ ▶ “And he said, ‘A pilot, you f------ racist.’ ”

Peo­ple can’t stay in their seats, they are laugh­ing so hard. One woman, who has been let­ting out loud whoops at the punch line of ev­ery story, dou­bles over, un­able to stop laugh­ing.

Twenty-four nights a year, Feherty does his act – three nights a week on eight oc­ca­sions. He does an hour and 40 min­utes of straight stand-up, paus­ing only oc­ca­sion­ally for brief sips of iced tea.The stand-up is his life story – told as only he can tell it. It in­cludes a good deal of bath­room hu­mour, plenty of pro­fan­ity and some poignant mo­ments, es­pe­cially when he talks about his par­ents and his wife, Anita.

Af­ter the stand-up, he pulls a chair out from be­hind the desk that is de­signed to look like the set of his TV show, “Feherty,” and does 20 min­utes of Q&A with his au­di­ence.

On this night, the Sat­ur­day of Masters Week, he is asked – pre­dictably – why he isn’t in Au­gusta.

“I’d rather be here with you,” he says. Then he points out that he’s no longer with CBS, which has the broad­cast rights. What he doesn’t men­tion is that Golf Chan­nel, which is part of NBC, his cur­rent em­ployer, would love to have him there dur­ing the week to add some much­needed hu­mour to the shows it does be­fore and af­ter live cov­er­age.

Ex­cept that Feherty has an agree­ment that he doesn’t have to work Masters Week.

“I never felt com­fort­able there,” he says. “Never had a prob­lem with any­one or any­thing. I just didn’t feel I could be my­self. I was in the club­house once in 19 years when I went up to have lunch. That was it.”

Which means he’s telling the truth when he tells his At­lanta au­di­ence he’d rather be with them. That doesn’t mean he isn’t ter­ri­fied ev­ery minute of the evening.

‘the sweet­est boy you would ever meet’

Very few sub­jects are out-of-bounds in Feherty’s rou­tine. He talks about his par­ents, about his first wife, about Arnold Palmer and Jack Nick­laus and Ken Ven­turi andTigerWoods.The only per­son he doesn’t joke about is Anita.

And there is one sub­ject he won’t go near, if only be­cause he knows if he did, he wouldn’t get to the end of the act. Shey. “He was the sweet­est boy you would ever meet,” he says very softly – his voice is rarely louder than a whis­per when he talks about him. “He liked peo­ple, and peo­ple liked him. He had that kind of per­son­al­ity. He was work­ing in a restau­rant for a while and do­ing very well be­cause he had a way with peo­ple. He was mov­ing up the lad­der there.

“But he got it in his head that he wanted to start a ticket-re­selling busi­ness. He was go­ing to com­pete with StubHub. He was a naïve kid in many ways. Lost, re­ally, just lost.”

Feherty shakes his head. “Can you imag­ine that ca­reer move? He was lost in so many ways. Re­minded me a lot of me. Which is just one of the rea­sons I can’t help but feel dev­as­tated and guilty about what hap­pened to him.”

On July 29 last year – Shey’s 29th birth­day – the phone rang early at the Feherty home in Dal­las. Anita an­swered. It was Rory, David’s younger son. Shey, his older brother by four years with Feherty’s first wife, Caro­line, had died that morn­ing of an ap­par­ent over­dose at their mother’s home.The coro­ner would later de­ter­mine that a mix­ture of co­caine and al­co­hol had killed him.

Anita walked the phone into the bed­room where David was still sleep­ing.

“You need to take this phone call,” she said softly, hand­ing him the phone as he slowly came awake. “It’s Rory.”

It was Rory who then told his fa­ther the news. It was stun­ning, but not com­pletely shock­ing. On July 4, Anita had got a text from Shey say­ing he needed to go back to re­hab. He had never got there.

For a year, Feherty had been told by pro­fes­sion­als that he needed to stay away from Shey, that he was en­abling his drug habit by giv­ing him money. He and Anita had agreed the night be­fore that they would call him the next day – Sat­ur­day – to wish him a happy birth­day.

“The truth is, I’d bro­ken down on sev­eral oc­ca­sions and given him money again,” Feherty says. “He was so sweet, and I couldn’t say no to him. Plus, like all of us ad­dicts, he was a very good liar. He con­vinced me the money wasn’t for drugs. I’m sure I knew deep down he was ly­ing, but I wanted to be­lieve he was re­ally on the way to com­ing out on the other side.

“Not talk­ing to him reg­u­larly, not see­ing him, was painful. But this . . . ” He stops, un­able to go on. Feherty’s me­mory of the rest of the day is blurred. Anita’s is not. “David, Rory and I went to the fu­neral home,” she says. “Rory did the best he could to take charge. David couldn’t speak – lit­er­ally. He couldn’t move his mouth. His face was frozen. He was com­pletely paral­ysed emo­tion­ally. He zoned out com­pletely. I

think he had to.”

Some­how, the fam­ily has moved on – as best as pos­si­ble – through the tragedy. Feherty was di­ag­nosed with clin­i­cal de­pres­sion and bipo­lar dis­or­der sev­eral years ago. Not sur­pris­ingly, the de­pres­sion has wors­ened since Shey’s death.

“It doesn’t get bet­ter,” he says.“It just gets fur­ther away.”

For­tu­nately,Anita in­stantly recog­nises when he is, as she puts it,“head­ing to a dark place,” and will force him to leave the house – go to lunch with her – any­thing to change his mind-set.

“He never wants to go,” she says.“And then when we get home, he thanks me for mak­ing him do it.”

Rory McIl­roy, who has be­come close to Feherty in re­cent years, puts it an­other way:“David does best,” he says,“when he’s think­ing about any­thing but David. It’s why he’s so good with help­ing oth­ers but strug­gles at times to help him­self.”

sup­port from pres­i­dents, sol­diers and the golf world

Feherty got through the tragedy, he says, be­cause of the over­whelm­ing out­pour­ing of sup­port he re­ceived from his fam­ily, from friends like McIl­roy and from peo­ple around the world whose lives he has touched – of­ten at times with­out know­ing it.Wounded sol­diers he’d vis­ited or joined for golf or pheas­ant hunt­ing (an an­nual trip Tom Wat­son helps put to­gether in North Dakota), not to men­tion the golf world.

Three for­mer US pres­i­dents reached out to him.“Pres­i­dent Bush (43) and Pres­i­dent Obama both sent me beau­ti­ful notes,” he says.“Pres­i­dent Clin­ton called. He was un­be­liev­able. Kept telling me what a good dad he knew I was and that if there was any­thing he could do to help . . . ”

That was the re­cur­ring theme: any­thing I can do to help. Wat­son spent hours with him on the phone and in per­son.“I just let him talk,”Wat­son says.“There’s re­ally noth­ing you can say in that sit­u­a­tion.You can’t bring back life. So, you just lis­ten and let him know you’re there – al­ways there.”

McIl­roy re­mem­bers feel­ing help­less.“I had no idea what to say or do,” he says. “I fi­nally fell back on just,‘What­ever you need.’ ”

It all kept Feherty go­ing and keeps him go­ing now.

The pain, he knows, will never com­pletely go away. He has four other chil­dren: Rory, who is now 26;Anita’s two sons, Fred, 35, and Karl, 33; and Erin, their 19-year-old daugh­ter. Rory is a mem­ber of the Texas Na­tional Guard and de­ployed to Dji­bouti in May.“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Feherty says,“and I couldn’t pos­si­bly be more fright­ened.” His eyes cloud.“I can’t even think about the pos­si­bil­ity of los­ing an­other son. Just can’t think about it.”

‘she saved my life’

It’s an hour be­fore Feherty has to be­come Feherty for an au­di­ence. He has not paid any at­ten­tion to the third round of the Masters that af­ter­noon be­cause he knows noth­ing will be de­cided un­til the next day.

He is stretched out on a couch in a tiny room in the base­ment of the At­lanta Sym­phony Orches­tra build­ing.There’s no In­ter­net ser­vice, and only by walk­ing down the hall is there cell­phone cov­er­age. Feherty knows he’ll hear what’s hap­pen­ing in Au­gusta soon enough.

There’s a pi­ano against the wall on the far side of the room that Feherty could no doubt play quite well if he were so in­clined.

He’s not. He’s tired and eager to get home to Dal­las later that night. He’s al­ready been in Lit­tle Rock on Thurs­day and Biloxi, Mis­sis­sippi, on Fri­day.

He eats a few bites of a greasy ham­burger and swigs from a bot­tle of wa­ter.

“Right now, I’m al­most frozen with ter­ror think­ing about what I have to do tonight,” he says.“It’s that way ev­ery time I do this. I’m very aware of my ADD, and I worry about los­ing my place in the mid­dle of a story and stand­ing there with a blank look on my face. I’m ab­so­lutely con­vinced it can hap­pen.”

He has been do­ing the show for four years. Has that ever hap­pened?

“Lose my place? All the time,” he says. “To­tally frozen and un­able to go on? Close, but no. Not yet.”

The show was con­ceived by Brad Jones, a young pro­moter who, five years ago, con­vinced Feherty to come to his home­town of Lon­don, On­tario, to speak at a cor­po­rate event.When Feherty was fin­ished with his talk, Jones asked him: “Have you ever con­sid­ered do­ing a stand-up act?”

“Isn’t that what I just did?” Feherty an­swered.

“What blew me away,” Jones says,“is that no­body had ever ap­proached him with the idea be­fore.”

Jones put to­gether a pro­posal, and Feherty un­veiled the Feherty Off-Tour act in Novem­ber 2014. Each year, the num­ber of per­for­mances has in­creased and the venues have got big­ger.

Feherty, 60, has Anita and An­drew Elkin, his agent at Cre­ative Artists Agency, han­dle all his fi­nances. He and Anita have been mar­ried for 22 years af­ter meet­ing on a blind date in Dal­las in 1995. Each had been through a failed mar­riage that had pro­duced two chil­dren.

“She saved my life,” Feherty says.“I mean, lit­er­ally. My life was an ab­so­lute mess when we met. I was try­ing to raise two lit­tle boys (Shey and Rory) alone in a two-bed­room apart­ment. I was ad­dicted to al­co­hol, co­caine, mar­i­juana, painkillers and just about any­thing else you could name. I was run­ning like For­rest Gump and weighed about 150 pounds (68kg).When Anita and I went on our first date, I was so thin she thought I was HIV-pos­i­tive.The first date lasted about half an hour be­fore she walked out af­ter I had reached over, put my straw in her drink and drank from it. For­tu­nately for me, for some rea­son, she agreed to go on a se­cond date – to a base­ball game.

“I didn’t know the rules of base­ball. Nei­ther did she, but I kept ask­ing her ques­tions, and she tried to an­swer them. Fi­nally, she stood up and said,‘Would you like some­thing to eat or drink? A hot dog or a beer?’ It was the nicest thing any­body had said to me for years. Hon­estly. I sat there and thought, I think I’m in love with this woman.”

Anita Sch­nei­der had to be con­vinced to go on that se­cond date. She was a suc­cess­ful in­te­rior de­signer who ran her busi­ness from home so she had flex­i­bil­ity to take care of her boys, who were 12 and 10 at the time. She wasn’t look­ing to re­marry. But she was talked into meet­ing Feherty by a mu­tual friend, Gary Knott. They were the same age, they were both di­vorced, and they both had two boys. Worth a try, she fig­ured.

The first night they met, she wasn’t im­pressed.

“It did cross my mind that he might be HIV-pos­i­tive,” she says.“Re­mem­ber, this is when peo­ple were ter­ri­fied by the epi­demic. He was much too skinny. Plus, he showed up drunk.When he put his straw in my drink, that was it – I had to leave.”

Through Knott, Feherty asked for one

‘I THINK THAT HIS GEN­UINE KIND­NESS HAS GIVEN HIM A FEW MORE MUL­LI­GANS IN LIFE THAN MOST PEO­PLE GET.’ – ANITA FEHERTY

more chance. Knott told Anita that David had promised he’d show up sober. He did – 30 min­utes early. Anita thought it was charm­ing that he was try­ing so hard. In the end, though, it wasn’t his hu­mour, which was ap­par­ent, or even his charm.

“It was his kind­ness,” she says.“His kind­ness out­shines ev­ery­thing else. I think that his gen­uine kind­ness has given him a few more mul­li­gans in life than most peo­ple get.”

Feherty moved in with Anita be­fore the end of the year, and when Shey and Rory were with him – he had split-cus­tody with his first wife – they stayed there, too. He went to South Africa early in 1996 to play the Sun­shine Tour, one of the few places he still had play­ing priv­i­leges. When he came back a month later, he walked into Anita’s garage, and when she came out to greet him, he said, “Please marry me.”

She said yes, and they were mar­ried May 31, 1996. Life got bet­ter for Feherty – slowly.

“I haven’t had to write a cheque for 22 years,” he says. “I have no idea what I’m worth or what any­one is pay­ing me. Anita has al­lowed me to just do the things I can do with­out wor­ry­ing about any of the other stuff. Much more im­por­tant, though, when the boys and I moved in with her and her two kids, we be­came a fam­ily. That was life-chang­ing.”

So was his ca­reer change, from good golfer to unique TV pres­ence.To hear Feherty talk now, you might think he never made a cut as a pro­fes­sional golfer and that he can barely re­mem­ber which end of a golf club to hold.

“Ac­tu­ally,” he says, “I’m not al­ways cer­tain about that nowa­days. I’ve for­got­ten a lot of things.”

What he does re­mem­ber is turn­ing pro at 17 af­ter de­cid­ing he wasn’t meant to be an opera singer, which is what he as­pired to do for most of his child­hood.

“I had a good voice,” he says. “I trained and worked at it. But I knew I wasn’t go­ing to be good enough. Of course, I wasn’t good enough at golf, ei­ther. I was like a 5-hand­i­cap at the time, but I fig­ured I’d try it. I went to work at a club north of Lon­don (Mid Herts) but came home af­ter a few months be­cause I missed my mom (Vi). That’s when I went to work at Holy­wood.”

Holy­wood Golf Club is fa­mous as the place where Rory McIl­roy learned to play and where his fa­ther, Gerry, tended bar and taught his son the game. In his stand-up, Feherty points out that he got to Holy­wood in 1976,“years be­fore the lit­tle bas­tard was born.”

Feherty adores McIl­roy, who adores him. “He is ab­so­lutely a prod­uct of his par­ents,” says Feherty, who got to know Gerry and Rose McIl­roy while at Holy­wood. “He hasn’t been changed by fame or for­tune. He’s just one of the most thor­oughly de­cent peo­ple I’ve ever met. I had noth­ing to do with him be­com­ing who he is, but I’m just so damn proud of him.”

McIl­roy says there’s noth­ing he wouldn’t do for Feherty be­cause he knows there’s noth­ing Feherty wouldn’t do for him. He of­ten tells the story about Feherty com­ing to find him af­ter his Sun­day melt­down at the Masters in 2011.As soon as Feherty got off the air, he drove to where Rory was stay­ing. In Feherty’s ver­sion of the story, he was blown away by McIl­roy’s abil­ity to keep the loss in per­spec­tive. In McIl­roy’s ver­sion, he couldn’t be­lieve how quickly Feherty helped him for­get what had hap­pened.

“Once he de­cided I was re­ally okay, he just sat down with me and my friends and ba­si­cally did a ‘Feherty’ show for us right there,” McIl­roy says. “An hour af­ter he got there, we were all lit­er­ally fall­ing off our chairs, we were laugh­ing so hard.

“He’s a com­plex and won­der­ful in­di­vid­ual,” McIl­roy says. “Anita calls it kind­ness; she’s right. I’d add com­pas­sion­ate. Kind, com­pas­sion­ate, bril­liant – and very, very hard on him­self at times.”

a mar­riage and a ca­reer crum­ble

From Holy­wood, Feherty moved on to Bal­moral Golf Club, where he worked for Fred Daly, the 1947 Open cham­pion and the only North­ern Ir­ish­man to win it un­til Dar­ren Clarke in 2011 and McIl­roy three years later.

“I was play­ing with Fred one day, and he hit a ball into a bunker, blasted out and hob­bled onto the green,” Feherty says in the act. “He said, ‘I’m re­ally hav­ing trou­ble get­ting out of bunkers as I get older.’ I said, ‘Fred, you just hit a fine shot there.’ He shook his head and said, ‘I don’t have any trou­ble get­ting the ball out of the bunker, I have trou­ble get­ting my body out.’ ”

Bal­moral was a largely Catholic club, but there were also Protes­tant mem­bers be­cause it was set be­tween a Catholic neigh­bour­hood and a Protes­tant neigh­bour­hood. “There were never re­ally any prob­lems,” says Feherty, who grew up in Ban­gor go­ing to a Protes­tant church three times a week with his fam­ily but now de­scribes him­self as an ag­nos­tic. “Peo­ple just came there to play golf. But the club­house did get blown up twice while I was there.”

Phone calls warn­ing peo­ple to leave a build­ing were taken very se­ri­ously dur­ing The Trou­bles. Feherty was on the golf course once when a bomb went off. “Very loud pop is all I re­mem­ber,” he says.

Feherty won five times on the Euro­pean Tour af­ter get­ting his card in 1980 and was on the Euro­pean Ry­der Cup team for the fa­mous/in­fa­mous War by the Shore at Ki­awah in 1991.There, he beat Payne Ste­wart, 2/1, and fondly re­mem­bers think­ing that he and Seve Balles­teros had truly bonded through the week as team­mates – “un­til I saw him in the locker room a week later in Stuttgart and he called me Don­ald,” Feherty says. “I was crushed.”

What was truly crush­ing Feherty dur­ing that pe­riod was his first mar­riage, to Caro­line DeWit, a beauty queen he had met while play­ing in South Africa. Shey was born in 1988 and Rory in 1992. In

‘TOM WAT­SON LOOKED AT ME AND SAID, “YOU’RE NOT WELL.” HE WAS RIGHT, OF COURSE – I WASN’T. I ASKED HIM LATER WHAT IT WAS HE SAW, AND HE SAID, “I WAS LOOK­ING AT MY­SELF A FEW YEARS EAR­LIER.” ’ – DAVID FEHERTY

1993, Caro­line de­cided she wanted to re­lo­cate to Dal­las; Feherty be­lieved it was be­cause of an­other man.

Even so, he fol­lowed, if only be­cause he didn’t want to be apart from his sons. He had to go to PGA Tour qual­i­fy­ing school to earn play­ing priv­i­leges. He suc­ceeded but never re­ally adapted to play­ing in Amer­ica. He did, how­ever, play well enough at Turn­berry in 1994 to have a real chance to win the Open Cham­pi­onship. He trailed co-lead­ers Fuzzy Zoeller and Brad Faxon by two shots af­ter three rounds and shot 70 on the fi­nal day, which left him tied for fourth be­hind Nick Price, who shot 66 to win.

“Look­ing back now, I don’t think I wanted to win,” Feherty says. “I had a few very mak­able putts around the turn that if I’d made, I’d have had a very real chance. But I missed them. I’m not say­ing I tried to miss, I’m just say­ing sub­con­sciously I just didn’t be­lieve I was good enough to win the Open. I didn’t want the re­spon­si­bil­ity. I’d had a chance in ’89 (T-6 at Troon), too, and the same thing had hap­pened.

get­ting a life­line

By 1995, Caro­line had left Feherty, and he was about to lose his play­ing priv­i­leges on the PGA Tour. He was drunk or high more of­ten than not and had no idea what he was go­ing to do.

Then, Anita and CBS came into his life – specif­i­cally, in the case of CBS, Gary McCord.The two men had never met, but McCord was in the locker room dur­ing an open­ing-round rain de­lay at The In­ter­na­tional in 1995. He was there to find play­ers who would come on-cam­era and kill time for USA, which had the Thurs­day-Fri­day ca­ble rights.

“I was there for a while,” says McCord, now one of Feherty’s clos­est friends. “David was in there telling sto­ries. I knew who he was but didn’t know him. Peo­ple were fall­ing over laugh­ing while he talked. When we went off-air I said to him, ‘You ever do any TV?’ He said no. I said, ‘Would you like to?’ He said, “I don’t know.’ I said, ‘Well, if you want to, I’ll be in the tower at 15 to­mor­row from 2-5, and if you want to, come on up there.’ I did it as much to keep my­self from get­ting bored be­cause I fig­ured if I had some­one to lis­ten to, I’d have to pay at­ten­tion.”

The next day, when he got to the tower, McCord told long­time CBS golf pro­ducer Frank Chirkinian that he’d in­vited Feherty.

“What?” Chirkinian screamed into McCord’s head­set. “No way. No way you two f------ guys are go­ing to be to­gether on-air.”

Chirkinian knew Feherty’s rep­u­ta­tion for blunt hu­mour.

McCord didn’t blink. “First, it was ca­ble, not the net­work,” he says.“It was Fri­day af­ter­noon, small au­di­ence. Frank liked to yell and grum­ble; that’s what he did. Plus, I didn’t even know if David would show.”

Feherty showed.And he blew McCord away. “He just went to places with his an­swers to ques­tions I never imag­ined any­one could go,” McCord says. “As we walked down the steps from the tower, I said to him, ‘This is what you’re go­ing to be do­ing next.’ I knew he wasn’t play­ing well and was go­ing to need some­thing soon. So, I said, ‘When the time comes, please call us.’ As in CBS, not me.”

Months later, CBS was forced to fire Ben Wright af­ter his po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect com­ments about why women – in his opin­ion – strug­gled to play golf well.

Feherty was sit­ting in a ho­tel bar, drink­ing vodka and Ga­torade – “be­cause I was still an ath­lete,” he says – when he saw CBS pro­duc­ers Lance Barrow and Rick Gen­tile ap­proach­ing.

“When they said, ‘CBS,’ I thought they were from ‘60 Min­utes’ and they were do­ing a story on golfers and drugs,” he says. “Who bet­ter than me to talk to? I was ter­ri­fied.”

Barrow and Gen­tile of­fered Feherty a three-tour­na­ment con­tract to take Wright’s spot for the rest of the year. Feherty was hired full time in 1997.

Hav­ing a job he was very good at and a happy mar­riage didn’t mean that Feherty got sober overnight. When Erin was a pre-kinder­gart­ner, Anita came home af­ter drop­ping her from school one morn­ing and told David if he didn’t get sober, she was leav­ing him.

He did. For a while. But never for good. He drank so much on a trip to Bar­ba­dos early in 2006 that he got al­co­hol poi­son­ing. Af­ter that, he and Anita went to an ad­dic­tion ther­a­pist.

Still, he was fight­ing a los­ing bat­tle. Then, that sum­mer, he was do­ing the playby-play for an ex­hi­bi­tion match on Prince Ed­ward Is­land be­tween Tom Wat­son and Jack Nick­laus.

Feherty has told the story of­ten about that be­ing a turn­ing point in his life. “Tom looked at me and said, ‘You’re not well,’ ” Feherty says. “He was right, of course – I wasn’t. I asked him later what it was he

SHEY ‘WAS LOST IN SO MANY WAYS. RE­MINDED ME A LOT OF ME.’ – DAVID FEHERTY

saw, and he said, ‘I was look­ing at my­self a few years ear­lier.’ ”

It wasn’t as if Wat­son sprin­kled magic dust on Feherty and he was cured. Any­thing but. Feherty wasn’t will­ing or able – in Anita’s opin­ion – to han­dle re­hab. Wat­son found him an AA group in Dal­las, and even though it was dif­fi­cult for Feherty, he went to a meet­ing ev­ery day. Un­til one day, he didn’t.

“I’d been rid­ing my bike to the meet­ings ev­ery morn­ing,” he says. “That day, I just kept go­ing.”

He was about 55 kilo­me­tres from Dal­las when he fi­nally called Anita to come and get him.

“I don’t do well in groups,” he says. “I like be­ing alone. When I’m home, I don’t an­swer the door and I don’t an­swer the phone.”

“David is okay in a group if it’s on his terms,” Anita says. “For­tu­nately, the bike be­came his ad­dic­tion. That’s when he got sober.”

Feherty would be up be­fore dawn, ride the bike for sev­eral hours, stop for cof­fee with friends and come home too ex­hausted to go to any dark places or to think about drink­ing. “When he wasn’t rid­ing the bike,” Anita says, “he was work­ing on it.”

Un­for­tu­nately, he was hit by cars on three oc­ca­sions on the bi­cy­cle.The first ac­ci­dent crushed his left arm so badly he had to give up play­ing golf.The third one forced him to give up the bike.

But, with a lot of ther­apy and sup­port, he came out on the other end – sober. If Anita ever thinks things might go bad again, she’d call Wat­son.

“He was clearly strug­gling, phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally,” Wat­son says of the Prince Ed­ward Is­land week­end. “I said, ‘I see you. I’ve been where you are. Let me help.’ He was very re­cep­tive. It wasn’t an easy process, but he got through it.”

Wat­son says their friend­ship re­ally took off when they went to Iraq to­gether in 2007 as part of a trip to en­ter­tain the troops, put to­gether by Rick Kell, co-founder of Troops First Foun­da­tion, a group Feherty has been ex­tremely in­volved with for years. When Feherty be­came an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen in 2010, one of the peo­ple who flew to Dal­las for the cer­e­mony was Wat­son. In 2016, af­ter Wat­son played his fi­nal round at the Masters, his fam­ily threw a party with about 60 friends in­vited.The star of the evening was Feherty, who was funny and poignant.

“When I was in the abyss, at the bot­tom of a well I thought I’d never climb out of,” Feherty said that night, “I looked up for help, and the face look­ing down at me and the hand reach­ing for me was Tom Wat­son.”

The first per­son to tell you that Feherty still strug­gles with his ad­dic­tions ev­ery day is Feherty. He takes 14 pills a day – seven of them psy­che meds – to help him deal with his de­pres­sion, bipo­lar dis­or­der and var­i­ous phys­i­cal mal­adies that will never go away.

“There isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not sad for at least part of the day,” he says. “And some days, I’m just sad all day. It’s got worse since Shey died. Some­times I just start to cry and can’t stop.”

He stops there and smiles.“And yet, I love my life. I don’t see how I could pos­si­bly be any hap­pier than I am right now.”

He left CBS at the end of his con­tract in 2015 and signed a deal that calls for him to do 16 of his “Feherty” shows each year for Golf Chan­nel, NBC’s golf tour­na­ments and var­i­ous other events, like the Olympics.

NBC of­fered more money than CBS – a good deal more – but it wasn’t so much the money as the chance to do some things that were dif­fer­ent – in­clud­ing spend­ing some of his time in a tower rather than walk­ing with the fi­nal group – that made the deal at­trac­tive.Add the 24 Off-Tour dates, speak­ing gigs, the oc­ca­sional out­ing and events for Troops First, and he’s on the road al­most non­stop.

“I need it that way,” he says. “I need to be busy. If I’m home for more than a week or so, I start to lose my mind. Most of the time, I like the work. I might be ter­ri­fied on stage, but I do en­joy it. Once I stop shak­ing with fear.”

He isn’t ex­ag­ger­at­ing. “I can see it on stage,” Anita says. “But I also know when he’s re­ally fright­ened, that’s when he’s at his best. If he’s not, he might lose fo­cus and then, even though he’s still ter­rific, he’s not as good as he can be – or wants to be. He al­ways knows, even if the au­di­ence doesn’t. He’ll come off stage and say, ‘I didn’t have it tonight.’ The crowd is out there scream­ing, but he knows. He al­ways knows.”

a son longs for his dad: ‘i miss him’

The evening in At­lanta is wind­ing down. There’s time for one more ques­tion. It’s the one every­one who has ever played golf is of­ten asked: “What’s your dream four­some?”

“Jack Nick­laus,” Feherty says quickly. “He’s the one great player of my time I never got to play with.” He pauses a split se­cond for ap­plause. He’s done this be­fore. “An­nika Soren­stam,” he con­tin­ues. “Never played with her, ei­ther, and I’ll never for­get her first tee shot at Colo­nial (in a 2003 PGA Tour event), when she hit it per­fectly and stag­gered off the tee be­cause the pres­sure on her that week was so over­whelm­ing.”

He pauses again. Not for ef­fect or be­cause he’s think­ing, but to gather him­self. “And my dad,” he fi­nally says. “I’d like to play one last round with him.”

His voice catches.The emo­tion is quite real. “Hap­pens to me ev­ery time,” he says later. Billy Feherty died in Novem­ber 2016 of Alzheimer’s at 91. “I miss him,” his son says. He’s think­ing back to his child­hood now, and he smiles at the me­mory of his par­ents. “They say that hu­mour is a sixth sense if you’re Ir­ish,” he says. “When I was a kid, hu­mour was my de­fence. I was clearly ADD and wasn’t any good in school ex­cept in maths and mu­sic. Hu­mour was what kept peo­ple from mak­ing fun of me, from call­ing me dumb. I’m not sure where I’d be or what I’d have be­come with­out it.”

The hu­mour is match­less. But those who know him best will tell you it is the re­mark­able kind­ness and the com­pas­sion that his wife and friends speak of that makes Feherty Feherty.

And that’s no joke.

‘THERE ISN’T A DAY THAT GOES BY WHEN I’M NOT SAD FOR AT LEAST PART OF THE DAY. AND SOME DAYS, I’M JUST SAD ALL DAY . . . . SOME­TIMES I JUST START TO CRY AND CAN’T STOP.’ – DAVID FEHERTY

feherty with son shey, who died on his 29th birth­day of what the coro­ner called a mix­ture of co­caine and al­co­hol.

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