Golf star Feherty finds links to heroes' struggles
If you're looking for someone to paint a pretty picture, don't bother handing the brush to David Feherty. With 10 victories worldwide including the ICL International, Italian Open, Scottish Open, South Africa PGA, BMW Open, Cannes Open and Madrid Open and more than $3 million in purse money under his belt, his glories on the green pale in comparison to his uncanny ability to turn plain words into a cleverly strung together daisy chain of self-deprecating humor and cheeky insults ... at rapid fire.
Don't get the wrong impression — he's not out for blood. He just wants the world to lighten up a bit. After all, if addictions to alcohol and pain killers can't leave you with a better sense of humor, then maybe an Attention Deficit Disorder and bipolar diagnosis can. After all, they did for him. Rooted firmly in the belief that you've got to own your demons lest they own you, his approach to life is simple — live for every moment — although those moments have the ability to drag him wildly off track.
Razor-sharp wit aside, the Irishman's got a soft spot for our American heroes, particularly those with devastating injuries from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's what brings him to town on Nov. 7 when he'll be the guest du jour at LeMont for a fundraiser benefitting his Troops First Foundation. Consider this fair warning: The faint of heart need not apply. Details: www.troopsfirstfoundation.org.
You can also catch him on his Golf Channel talk-show, “Feherty,” where he talks with well-known personalities from the golf world and beyond.
Question: How does someone with aspirations to be an opera singer end up on the pro golf circuit?
Answer: Well, I knew that it takes a good deal of time for a tenor to mature. I heard myself, as well — that was another issue — and I thought, “The last thing the world needs is a mediocre Irish tenor clutching the bar and singing Danny Boy.” I was mediocre in school and was a classic ADD child in school, and I was in a geography class one day and they were teaching me the average rainfall in Samoa and I thought, “I'm done,” and I went and turned pro. I was a 5 handicap at the time, so it wasn't genius, but it worked out. But when I look back at it, I think, “What was I thinking?”
Q: People who battle the same demons you have — depression, alcohol and pain-killer addictions — usually don't come out standing. Yet, you fall down and manage to get back up again. What motivates you to pick yourself up and dust yourself off?
A: It's a combination of things. I'm lucky to have enough people around me that love me and care about me. Not everyone has that. Every addict does the same thing. They confuse fun with happiness and think they're the same thing. They're not, and they have to come in the right order. You've got to get happy before you have fun because fun doesn't lead to happiness. It leads to misery and, eventually, death if that's all you want. What I do, and what disarms people more than everything else, is that I'm ruthlessly honest and that kind of freaks people out when I get asked questions about my personal life. If you don't want the answer, don't ask me the question. I'm very comfortable with who I am — I'm not all that comfortable at times about how I got here.
Q: What was the turning point for you?
A: You know, I can't put my finger exactly on it, but there was a turning point in my life about six years ago and it coincided with my first visit to Baghdad and it was the first time I really felt I could be of service to someone and realized how therapeutic it is. They (the troops) really appreciate the opportunity to show who they are by the reaction of how I am with them. It gives then dignity and an intellectual challenge ... to be able to put a smile on their faces and to horrify bystanders — which is one of my favorite activities, horrifying bystanders.
Q: Do you aim to inspire the troops or for them to inspire you?
A: Well, there's no question they inspire and they heal me. What I aspire to do with them is to give them a great day and put a smile on their faces — to make them feel better about themselves. And I'm talking about the short term. They come back damaged in ways that people couldn't understand. We don't have the courage to even report these things (they've seen). They don't talk about it. It's hard for people to understand. We can be tremendously judgmental. So, we try to provide a non-judgmental forum for these guys so they don't feel so freakish. It's the toughest of the tough that are reduced to complete confusion about what we find significant as civilians.
Q: Society reveres celebrities, but are obsessed with watching them fall apart. Given that, how are you able to be so comfortable being as transparent as you are or do you just not care what people think?
A: I really do care. I was diagnosed with bipolar about two years ago and you know, people in the public eye who aren't afraid to say they have a mental illness or addiction problem, that helps other people. Or families who might have a member who refuses to face that problem — it may help them identify it, for that matter. If you help one person with depression, you help 100 people because of the circle around them. I try not to sound like a broken record about how screwed up I am — that's fairly obvious — but I've got to take six different psych meds every morning and at night to appear as normal as I am now. And you know I don't like having to do it. There's a stigma that goes with mental illness that needs to go away. Your mind has an immune system just like your body does, and when it goes down, you're not able to deal with the sadness in the world. People didn't realize I had a drinking problem until I turned up sober — I was that good at it! My life has been so (messed) up, but I'm all right now. I'm glad — it's put me in a place where I have to live my life each moment, and it's not about anything but the time we have left and how we spend it.
Q: That wicked humor that's become your signature — is there ever a time when David Feherty has a filter?
A: Yeah, at the Masters, I suppose. I don't play the part of me at the Masters — I provide punctuation instead of commentary. It just doesn't seem to fit.
Q: If you were gone tomorrow, what would you want written on your tombstone?
A: I'd love to have something along the lines of “Don't take yourself too seriously.” I hope no one accuses me of that — that would be the worst possible thing I would imagine.<