The drive between the front gate and the clubhouse of New South Wales Golf Club is a long one. The road winds its way through nearly a kilometre of the Botany Bay National Park. Dense native Australian fauna spreads out in all directions.
I was heading to my first media conference at the Australian Open and the familiar, repetative landscape had almost calmed my nerves when John Daly’s pants came into view. It appeared he had either slept on a freshly painted chess board or mugged a chef on the way to the course.
There was a time when John Daly may have mugged a chef for food but his new physique is incredible. Daly has lost 52 kilograms (115 pounds) since February due to lap-band surgery and a big change in lifestyle. His short stature is now more apparent and so too is his polite, generous nature. It is no surprise these traits in Daly have come to the surface as his personal confidence has grown since losing so much weight.
John Daly and his girlfriend Anna
You could almost see the guy well up as he also spoke of his daughter’s weight battle. “My daughter has lost 65 pounds and she’s wearing jeans for the first time in her life”, Daly said. “I mean, your self esteem gets better, especially for kids. You don’t like being teased, I was teased when I was a young kid because I was fat, and it’s no fun.”
“I feel like I’m preparing myself better, to play better golf. Things are more positive in my life than it was before. Whether I play better or not, at least I’m giving myself an opportunity to play better.”
If this was the international spokesperson for the coming tournament, we’re in for a good time. He was a class act and I didn’t think golfers could get any nicer until Marc Leishman walked in. Leishman is the favourite to take out the PGA Tour rookie of the year trophy after a sterling second half of the year.
Marc Leishman, one of Warnambool’s greatest exports.
“The thing is over there [the US PGA Tour] is that if you’re not playing really well, you’ll miss the cut. You can’t just play average golf and expect to make the cut”, Leishman said. “Early on I was thinking about what score I needed to shoot to make the cut and not thinking about winning the tournament.”
My nerves had now completely disappeared and I decided to head back to Aussie Golfer HQ with a few stories in mind. I didn’t realise the best story was about to come.
Out on course, Mathew Goggin was messing about playing 80 metre sand wedges into the 13th green. Into the wind, they were starting out like 80 metre sand wedges but ended up travelling about 30 metres and then spinning back past his feet. This southerly gale brought with it some more heavy rain and as I huddled with others seeking shelter, the Stonehaven Trophy appeared next to me.
The Stonehaven Cup.
This trophy is awarded to the winner of The Australian Open and thought to be the oldest in Australian golf. Awarded for over 100 years, it has etched into it names such as “J. Nicklaus”, “A.Palmer”, “G.Player”, “P.Thompson” and “G.Norman”. A bus took everyone and the Stonehaven Cup, out of the rain and off the course. It was being transported to its next promotional event.