ST. PETERSBURG — He occasionally hears wisecracks from the gallery but learned long ago how to tune them out. When you’ve grown up on the edge of celebrity, the world is filled with background noise.
He may carry his father’s name and is chasing his father’s dream, but the comparisons between John Daly and John Daly II are strictly familial at this point in their lives.
For one thing, it’s no longer mystifying how a man can drive a golf ball 300 yards down a fairway the way his old man famously did to the delight of crowds in the 1990s. And while Daly II will occasionally outhit his father these days, he insists the strength of his game is his work around the greens.
And then there is the matter of their personalities. The PGA Tour had never seen anything like the original John Patrick Daly, who was skilled, brash, engaging and self-destructive, sometimes all in the same round. He was among the most popular players on the tour in spite of — and maybe because of — his rowdy reputation on and off the course.
Daly II, now 18, is quieter and less demonstrative. He describes himself as shy, although he says he’s working on being more outgoing as his public profile grows.
And the son has the benefit of a recovering role model for a father.
“He tells me to do the opposite of him and I’ll be just fine,” Daly II said on Wednesday.
Daly II is in town this week to play in the 96th New Year’s Invitational at St. Petersburg Country Club, a tournament that has been won in previous years by one-time Masters champion Bob Goalby, Gary Koch and Brandt Snedeker.
The younger Daly has been playing since he was old enough to hold a club and has been a regular competitor on the American Junior Golf Association circuit, but his status in the game got a huge boost when he and his father teamed up to win the PNC Championship in Orlando a few days before Christmas.
They had come close to winning the father-and-son tournament in years past, but this time held off a back-nine charge from Tiger Woods and his son, Charlie, for a two-stroke victory.
“It was awesome. It was really the first year that we just went out there to enjoy ourselves and have some family fun before the holidays,” Daly II said. “But now I can look back at it and say it feels pretty damn good to be able to beat Tiger Woods.
“I’m going to be bragging about that for a long time.”
Truth be told, Daly II has been running in these circles for much of his life. His father got primary custody of him shortly after his parents split up when he was 7 and JD, as his friends call him, traveled from course to course while being home-schooled and practicing his own game.
By this point, his father was in his 40s and his best days were in the past, but Daly was still a huge draw and would get invitations to tournament around the world.
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“I don’t really remember too much from back then, other than I used to heckle the Tour guys on the putting greens,” Daly II said.
After a few years of this, it became clear that life on the PGA Tour could be tricky without a lot of other people his age around. Daly, who settled in Clearwater around this time, enrolled his son in a private school in Orlando and then got him a spot in the IJGA Bishops Gate Golf Academy.
Daly II recently began his freshman season at the University of Arkansas and says he can already see the difference in skill level between junior tournaments and major college golf.
At this point in his life, he’s not ready to make any claims about a potential pro career. He’s got enough power and skill to have attracted attention, but he’s been around the game enough to know how difficult it can be to thrive on the PGA Tour.
He never saw his father play in his prime — although he did study video of Daly’s 1991 PGA Championship victory at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indiana after Daly II nearly won a junior tournament there — but fully understands that his own career will forever be held up to those standards.
Is that a good thing for a teenager just beginning his journey in the sport?
“I don’t know,” Daly II says before settling into an extended pause.
“I guess we’re going to find out.”
About the tournament
What: 96th Annual New Year’s Invitational
Where: St. Petersburg Country Club
When: Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. shotgun start; Sunday, 9:30 a.m. shotgun start
History: The amateur tournament has been played continuously on the same course (previously Lakewood Country Club) since 1927. ... Previous winners include PGA Tour pros Brandt Snedeker, JB Holmes, Bob Goalby, Jason Dufner, Bob Murphy, Bob Tway, Gary Koch, Jeff Overton and Rocco Mediate, among others.
In the field: John Daly II, defending champion Remi Chartier, 2021 runnerup and Jesuit alumnus Matthew Ruel, 2021 fourth-place finisher Jansen Preston, 2020 Florida Amateur champion Dean Greyserman, AJGA Junior champion Reed Greyserman
John Romano can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.