Other Sports

Golfer John Daly appears in Myrtle Beach after near-death experience

Two-time major champion John Daly promotes his signature drinks, poses for photographs and signs autographs at the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship World’s Largest 19th Hole at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center on Tuesday.
Two-time major champion John Daly promotes his signature drinks, poses for photographs and signs autographs at the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship World’s Largest 19th Hole at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center on Tuesday. jblackmon@thesunnews.com

Not even a near-death experience could keep John Daly from making a scheduled appearance at the 32nd World Amateur Handicap Championship.

Or was it a death experience?

Daly said Tuesday that he had to be revived by cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the 18th tee box of a Mississippi golf course early Saturday evening and he feels lucky to still be among us.

“I was just shooting the [breeze] and fell flat on my face,” Daly said. “They had to resuscitate me. My chest is still sore from where they did CPR on me.”

Daly was rushed to a hospital in an ambulance from the golf course and said he was released within a few hours after tests revealed his vital signs were fine.

Based on what doctors told him, Daly believes he passed out and stopped breathing because of a collapsed lung. He believes it was triggered by fractured ribs that haven’t healed since an incident in 2007, though he’s still awaiting the results of some tests.

Daly assumes a rib must have pushed into the lung, and an altered swing because of a sore right hand may have contributed to the impact. He injured the hand, which has been broken more than once, recently when a car jack fell on it while he was changing tires on a golf cart. “Swinging differently probably caused it,” Daly said.

Daly at first resisted going to the hospital, but was convinced to by friends and those who performed mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions.

“They talked me into it. I think they were afraid I had a heart attack,” Daly said. “I don’t like going to hospitals, never have and never will.”

Daly returned to Deerfield Course in Madison, Miss., on Sunday to continue participating in the small golf outing and puff on a few cigarettes, though he said he putted around and didn’t hit many shots. “What am I going to do? You can’t sit around and dwell on it,” Daly said. “I’m a guy that likes to be outside anyway.

“… Part of it was maybe dehydration. I’m not a water drinker. But it’s happened when I’ve been hydrated.”

Daly said he had a similar collapsing episode a few months ago in Tampa when he was getting out of a shower. “I was getting out of the shower and collapsed again,” Daly said. “My ribs were killing me then and I thought it was just the ribs. Fractured ribs don’t go away. People don’t understand just how bad fractured ribs are. It’s like 100 times worse than a sciatic nerve.”

I'd like to keep doing what I love to do. I believe the good Lord has a plan for us for when we're going to go. If it's me on the golf course that's fine.

John Daly

Daly is still feeling under the weather. “It was a rough weekend,” he said.

But the two-time major champion and five-time PGA Tour winner kept his commitment to appear at the World Am’s 19th Hole post-round cocktail party and expo Tuesday and Wednesday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, even making an early appearance Monday evening.

Daly is largely at the tournament to promote his beverage, the John Daly Cocktail, which consists of three varieties of tea, lemonade and vodka and is a sponsor of the tournament that features approximately 3,340 players.

Daly also broadcast his SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio show “Hit it Hard with John Daly,” Tuesday from the convention center stage, and may join Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers on stage Wednesday night. They are the official band of Daly’s beverage.

All the while Daly is enjoying the adoration and fandom that has accompanied him throughout his career.

“I’ve always appreciated it,” Daly said. “It’s always amazing how people come out to watch me hit a little white golf ball. I love the fans. They keep you going. It’s wonderful to have home fans everywhere I go. I’ve cherished it and always will. Not a lot of people have that and I’m thankful that I do.”

The beverage is part of an expansion of the John Daly empire. Daly formed the GIASI (Grip It and Sip It) Beverage Company in 2010 with close friends Brian Beatty and Christian Cervantes, the drink entered the market in 2013 and the three versions are sweet tea/lemonade, peach tea/lemonade and raspberry tea/lemonade. It is distributed in 30 states, including South Carolina and on the Grand Strand.

Daly has an endorsement agreement and is part owner of the flashy Loudmouth Golf apparel company, which he says will be involved in the World Am next year, has merchandise, a golf course design business – he designed Wicked Stick Golf Links in Surfside Beach but doesn’t have any current contracts – and has made two music albums. The first was to benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation and the second, co-written with Darius Rucker, featured the “Hit it Hard” song that cracked the top 10 on SiriusXM’s Highway country countdown.

In his day job, Daly, 49, has made two of 10 cuts on the PGA Tour this year, relying primarily on sponsor exemptions to play without tour exempt status for the past few years.

He won a pro tournament for the first time in 10 years in December in Turkey. The Beko Classic had about 30 players including 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke and six-time European Tour winner Paul Broadhurst, and Daly won by a shot with a 15-under total to collect $8,000. Daly’s last win prior to that came in the 2004 Buick Invitational.

“It was just a fun type of tournament, but anytime you win, it’s a win,” Daly said. “I know it’s not a great big tournament, but anytime you win it fuels the fire and makes you believe you can still win.”

The win came the same week Daly announced his engagement to Anna Cladakis, a former promotions director for Hooters restaurants who is now his full-time caddie and looped for him in the event. “She loves it. She says that’s her workout exercise,” Daly said. The couple lives in Clearwater, Fla.

Daly said much of the remainder of his year will be spent playing oversees. He has requested a spot in October’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and UBS Hong Kong Open, said he’s in the fields for European Tour events in Turkey and China, then hopes to also play in Abu Dhabi and Dubai after the turn of the calendar.

Then he’ll prepare for his Champions Tour debut after his 50th birthday on April 28.

“I’m excited about it,” Daly said. “There are so many great players, so many icons of the game playing the Champions Tour. You can’t do it in baseball, football, hockey or all the other sports, but in golf you can and it’s a pretty cool thing.

“You’ve got to be competitive because those guys are really good. I know most of them, played against them on tour, and most of them kicked my [behind].”

He plans to play as long as his body will allow. Daly initially injured his ribs when a woman took a picture in his downswing at the Honda Classic in 2007, causing him to flinch and his club to hit the ground a few inches behind the ball. The jarring impact separated his shoulder and fractured ribs. “I felt the shoulder and ribs were gone,” Daly said.

They’ve been bothering him ever since, and have been more painful recently.

“I’m not going to quit doing what I do. If I die from this injury I did it doing my job,” Daly said. “The bottom line is it can happen to me not swinging my golf club. I’d like to keep doing what I love to do. I believe the good Lord has a plan for us for when we’re going to go. If it’s me on the golf course that’s fine.”

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin