The sporting life

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 22, 2004

The best sports story – if not the best story – so far of the year was drowned out last Sunday by the roar of Dale Junior’s engine with his victory at Daytona.

While Junior was winning the big one for his dad, on the other side of the country, golfer John Daly was winning a big one for himself.

For those timid souls who can’t take the excitement of professional golf and may be unaware, John Daly is arguably the game’s greatest talent and certainly it’s most tortured. Big John, an Arkansas native, with his mullet haircut and monstrous drives, burst onto the professional golf scene in 1991 when, as an alternate and driving all night to make his tee time, he won the PGA Championship, one of golf’s four major tournaments. Four years later he won the British Open, another of the majors, all the while dazzling and delighting crowds with his powerful drives and delicate short game.

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Early on after his PGA when, reports began surfacing of Daly’s penchant for partying – he revealed in interviews that he had his first drink of alcohol when he was about 8. There were divorces, (three to date); allegations of domestic assault, hotel room destruction, lots of drinking binges, wild weight fluctuations, and embarrassing displays in tournaments in which he would hit ball after ball into water hazards or hitting balls in motion, publicly criticizing the PGA and frequently just walking out of tournaments in middle of a round.

He had become a joke. He lost a lucrative endorsement deal with Calloway and while occasionally showing flashes of the talent that lay within, he typically ended up near the bottom of earnings lists and was considered finished.

That is until last week at the Buick Invitation when Daly faced his demons down, overcame a poor final round and won in a playoff, his first win in 10 years. As of this writing, he was near the top of the leader board in the Nissan Open.

I don’t know what Daly did to turn his life and golf game around – he probably just matured. But whatever it was, I hope he can stick to it because his reemergence as a top player is good for golf and good for people anywhere who have experienced devastating lows.

It’s always possible to regroup if one works hard enough and is able to maintain their focus. America is about second chances and Americans love people like John Daly, people who persevere and overcome. Daly’s galleries are bigger than Tiger Woods’

If he can do it, any of us can.

Looking out my office window on this gorgeous Saturday afternoon, I can think of few things other than golf. In a matter of weeks we’ll be able to regularly play once again and for golfers, spring is the most eagerly anticipated time of the year.

Golf in Suffolk will be a lot better this year than in the past. Inside today’s installment of Horizons, &uot;Feelin’ Good,&uot; there’s a Suffolk golf preview of sorts that I wrote.

Sleepy Hole and Cedar Point have undergone extensive renovations that should make them among the state’s top courses and will make Suffolk a true golfing destination in Virginia. I enjoyed talking with Sleepy Hole’s Rick Bidnick and Cedar Point’s Dan Stepnicka about the wonderful changes at their courses. Golfers will be in for a real treat.

Anyone driving over the South Main Street overpass and looking to their right can’t help but notice the News-Herald’s new sign that adorns the back of the building. I know it’s a little obnoxious, but we needed it to be large to cover some brick that was damaged by tractor-trailers years ago delivering rolls of newsprint to our warehouse.

In fact, thanks to the work on the parking lot done by the city, that view from the overpass is completely different than it was just six months ago. We’ve got a location here in which we can take pride.

I noticed some other sprucing up going on downtown over the past week. The buildings down East Washington next to the Professional Building look charming with their new coats of paint, and I noticed Saturday that Andy Damiani was having the old J.P. Boone TV shop painted.

For all the destruction wrought by Hurricane Isabel, the one good thing it did was remove that tacky 1960s facade from the Boone building. It’s really a beautiful old building with character and will make some business a nice home.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611, or via e-mail at