Sunday, March 26, 2023

Review: Feherty (2023)

By John Feinstein

You might remember John Feinstein's last book. It was "Raise a Fist, Take a Knee" - a quite serious look at what he called the lack of racial progress in America in racial matters It was very well done, thanks in part to some candid interviews along the way. Naturally, Feinstein receives some of the credit for that, since he was asking the right questions to the right people.

That might have been a little draining, so Feinstein can't be criticized for moving on to a subject with a few more laughs. And who is more qualified to do that than David Feherty, at least in golf circles? He's built up a reputation as the funniest man to be connected with golf over the last few decades.

Feinstein, who has written a number of good golf books over the years, dives right in with this biography of Feherty. The catch is that while there is plenty of parts concerning fun here, it's the serious stuff that is likely to stay with you for a long time.

Feherty is about as far from a country-club kid from the suburbs as you can get. He grew up in Northern Ireland, just as the Troubles were beginning. David stayed out of trouble for the most part, but he had an other issue as well - ADD. He was clearly a bright kid but had trouble concentrating in school, which is a recipe for problems. So the young man dropped out. Feherty did have two areas in which kept his interest: music and golf. Eventually, golf was the one which won over his attention, although he can still belt out a tune with gusto when prompted.

Feherty wasn't a true natural on the course. But he was willing to work hard, and made the professional tour. In Europe, Feherty wasn't a top star - but he was good enough to play for Europe in the 1991 Ryder Cup, and he made some money. Then he crossed the pond for personal reasons, and had some success in America.

Some injuries probably brought his career to a slightly premature ending, but everyone had noticed that Feherty was funny. Stand-up comic funny. That caught the attention of the television networks, who after a short test figured out David could add a lot to a broadcast. He's been at it for about a quarter-century now. Feherty found something of a niche on television, someone who knew the game but was was willing to not take everything too seriously. Some think he's the John Madden of golf announcing, both likeable characters, but Feherty is beloved by a smaller audience.

There's no "happily ever after" ending here. The story goes on, in some ways, thanks to some demons. He suffers from depression and alcoholism. Feherty has done recreational drugs, and gone through some personal tragedies. He describes his first marriage as a train wreck, and the second one probably will be a ticket to sainthood for his patient and loving wife. Feherty takes something like 13 pills a day to keep in good enough shape to function. It sounds like every day is a battle for him, but he's dancing as fast as he can.

These days, Feherty has turned up on the broadcasts of the somewhat LIV golf tour. He admitted that like the players on the tour, he took the job for the relatively ridiculously amount of money he was offered to jump. So far the LIV has been something of a well-paid ticket to obscurity for those involved, but that's a story that remains to be told.

Feherty gave Feinstein permission to talk to just about everyone about his life, which showed a little guts under the circumstances. Not only did that include family members, but Bill Clinton even pops up for a recap of how he tried to help Feherty during difficult times. The same could be said about Tom Watson, who as Feinstein notes as a long way from Clinton politically. Maybe there's help for bipartisanship yet. You can tell that Feherty, even with his demons, has managed to keep most of his family and friends close to him because of his innate good humor. (The exception might be his first wife.)

"Feherty" feels a little on the light side, as a few asides and a little duplication fill out the pages. Even so, it continues Feinstein's long winning streak of successful and interesting books. Many will find Feherty's story surprising and interesting, and will be rooting for him to complete a successful back nine in the remaining years of his life.

Four stars

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