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Daly a Tour hit at FDCC
Knox County-born Kirk wins Nationwide at -20

A once anonymous but friendly Arkansas guy — a big fellow who enjoyed downing a few Miller Lites outside the Willow Creek Golf Course clubhouse in 1990 — came back to Farragut.

Back as a “cult figure,” with two PGA majors championships to his credit and a worldwide reputation for enormous driving distance that left Willow Creek Golf Course brass nearly speechless two decades earlier.

First appearing in Nationwide Tour week's South College Shootout Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 24, John Daly walked the fairways and greens of Fox Den Crounty Club last week.

Daly, 1991 PGA and 1995 British Open champ, wore loud outfits while finishing tied for 42nd (8-under) and earning $2,030 during the 21st annual PGA Developmental Tour event in Knox County Aug. 26-29.

Chris Kirk, born in Knox County and new leader on Nationwide Tour’s 2010 money list, earned $90,000 as champ by firing a four-day 268 (20-under).

Daly, however, “probably has the second largest cult following ... I would almost relate this to Tiger Woods playing here, a Nationwide equivalent to Tiger Woods playing in a PGA Tour event,” said Scott Moran, FDCC head professional and event qualifier. “People love John Daly.”

Daly, whose well-publicized bouts with alcoholism and gambling hurt his game according to many pro golf analysts, came to Farragut in 1990 as a young golfer on the newly created Ben Hogan Tour (now Nationwide).

“Back in those days it was a 54-hole event,” said Bill Roach, longtime Willow Creek general manager whose course hosted the first five Ben Hogan events (’90-94).

Roach said he'd seen many PGA events, but had “never seen anybody hit it that far. ... He's hitting it through the range, through No. 9 fairway.

“I've stood right behind [Jack] Nicklaus and seen him hit it, and a lot of other great players, and never seen a ball come off the club like that,” he added. “I'd say he'd be driving it 340 back in those days.”

In fact, Daly hit his tee shots so hard at Willow Creek, “He caved in the face of his driver at some point,” Roach said. “He had to have it replaced; they mailed one from TaylorMade out here.”

But when it came to his 54-hole effort on the WCGC course, Daly finished three under par, tied for 31st, earning him just $750.

Roach said Daly was “very easy to approach,” and recalled "an area on the back patio [at Willow Creek], and he'd be sitting back there with his caddy having a beer, drinking Miller Lite; no one knew who he was.

“No one bothered him, just like any other normal player,” Roach added about Daly, who's reportedly lost about 100 pounds.


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