Daley no longer lets 'putt' define his career


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Joe Daley calls it ancient history, but he remembers the putt like it was yesterday.

Battling for one of the 36 spots in the 2000 PGA Tour Qualifying School tournament, Daley lined up a4-foot putt for double bogey. He gave the ball a firm stroke, squared to the hole and leaned down to retrieve the ball when it hit the bottom of the cup.

It did, but not until after one more putt.

The ball struck the top edge of the cup liner and bounced back toward Daley. The cup liner by rule has to be set an inch beneath the putting surface, but it was dislodged, likely by a wary flagstick.

Daley was livid. He stepped back, hurled his black hat to the ground and pointed to the hole in disbelief. He stood with his hand on his hip, never taking his eye off the cup and conceded a triple bogey.

"It was the damnedest thing I had ever seen," he told reporters that day.

Before that hole, Daley was at 16 under and high on the leader board with two rounds to play. He played the next two days at 1 under. He missed his ticket to the PGA Tour by one stroke. A PGA Tour veteran in 1996 and '98, he never returned.

Twelve years later, Daley is sitting at No. 2 on the leader board of the Constellation Senior Players Championship after posting rounds of 66 and 64 at Fox Chapel Fox Golf Club. He was asked to recall the 2000 putt. He laughed and assented, his voice rising in anguish.

"I rolled that putt so good," he said. "I wish I could roll every putt I ever had that good.

"But that was back in 2000, that's ancient history."

Surely it still stings. But Daley's journey to Fox Chapel isn't just defined by a putt. He has had a multitude of obstacles along the way.

Daley, 51, started late. He didn't pursue a professional golf career until he was 32, years after playing golf at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. Until 1992, Daley was a wholesale credit salesman.

After some convincing from golfing buddies, he focused on golf. He saw the peaks and valleys of the game. Daley said his experiences before golf prepared him for the frustration.

After two short stints in the PGA -- where he admittedly was overwhelmed -- and a memorable putt that left him empty-handed, Daley sat out two years with a neck injury before joining the Nationwide Tour.

"It's been a learning curve," Daley said. "It took me awhile but I think I'm on my way."

His biggest motivation has been to stay away from the 9-to-5 lifestyle.

"I realize what it's like to have a 60-hour-a-week job where you put on a suit and tie and go to work," Daley said.

And if he ever gets too frustrated with golf, well, he has a backup plan.

"I've got a friend back in Virginia that reminds me on a regular basis that if I ever get tired of playing golf I can come to his office -- he's a CPA -- and work for him," Daley said laughing. "And that's an open invitation for however long we're both around."

He's not done yet. Daley's 66 Thursday put him in third place. His 64 Friday moved him to 10 under, one back of leader Fred Couples. He notched 16 birdies in two rounds to pace the field.

From credit salesman to the victim of a dislodged hole liner that stalled his career and ended his PGA Tour aspirations, there's plenty that Daley considers ancient history. A win at Fox Chapel, he notes, would be a nice addition to the memory bank.

golf

Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2193 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.


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