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Nothing Sacred

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After more than 20 years on the pro golf circuit—first as a player and now as an analyst—David Feherty still finds the game maddeningly unpredictable. “The only other profession where you can consistently be wrong like I am and still get paid,” he says in his Irish brogue, “is the Weather Channel.”

Yet forecasts couldn’t be brighter for Feherty, 42, who has enlivened golf broadcasting since trading his clubs for a headset five years ago. Teamed with golf anchor Jim Nantz for CBS’s coverage of the Masters tournament in Augusta, Ga. (April 7 and 8), Feherty avoids the hushed tones that awed broadcasters have traditionally brought to such storied events. “The TV audience doesn’t want to hear somebody whispering,” says Feherty. While he normally prefers to roam the course, tossing one-liners to the anchor in the booth—”They’ve started wars in the Mideast over smaller areas of sand,” he once quipped about a trap—his movements will be limited at the Masters. “The last thing the player needs,” he says, “is to hear me say ‘This lie sucks’ right before he’s getting ready to hit the ball.”

“This is a very, very boring sport,” says Gary McCord, Feherty’s mikemate on CBS’s seasonal Late Night Highlights Show. “I fall asleep half the time.” With his quick, irreverent wit, Feherty is the antidote for drowsy viewers and a hit with his former tourmates. “He always keeps it fun,” says Tiger Woods, who usually responds good-naturedly when collared for one of Feherty’s fairway interviews. Says Davis Love III: “David brings a definite sense of humor and lightheartedness to the game.” Besides, Love adds, “he’s a smart guy; he knows the game.”

Feherty learned it as a boy in Bangor, Northern Ireland. As might be expected in an occasional war zone, playing the back nine at a nearby Belfast golf course could be hair-raising. “The clubhouse was blown up twice,” recalls Feherty, the son of a freight worker, Billy, now 75, and a homemaker, Vi, 71. A choirboy whose parents hoped he might become an opera singer, Feherty disappointed them when he quit school at 17 to become a golf pro. “The world had enough bad Irish tenors,” he says. “I decided to play golf instead, and I haven’t sung a note since.”

Feherty embraced the game, winning the Irish championship in 1980 and ’82 and the Scottish Open in ’86. He enjoyed his best season in 1990, earning $573,093 on the European tour. But by 1995, he says, his game had become a “mediocrity.

I didn’t have the drive and dedication to be No. 1.” He no longer qualified for the PGA Tour, and at about the same time, his 10-year marriage to his first wife, Caroline, ended. (Feherty refuses to elaborate.) The divorce became final in 1996 after they had both moved to the U.S. from Bangor. Feherty settled in Dallas, along with sons Shey, now 12, and Rory, 8. “It felt like the end,” he says of the move, “but it ended up being the beginning of a wonderful life.”

The upswing began the following year, when CBS offered Feherty a job. “They pretty much said, We noticed your golfing really stinks; have you thought of working on TV?” he recalls. “I wanted to know how much it paid. They told me and I said, ‘Anyone want to buy a set of golf clubs?’ ”

Feherty was able to get his personal life out of the rough thanks to Anita Schneider, 43, a Dallas business executive and single mom (of sons Fred, 17, and Karl, 15) whom he met on a blind date in 1995. “I thought he had some kind of disease because he was so skinny, plus he was really drunk,” Anita recalls. Promising not to be drunk the next time, Feherty cadged a second date and eventually won her over. The two wed 10 months later and in 1998 celebrated the birth of their daughter Erin, now 2. Currently living in a Victorian-style home in Dallas’s Preston Hollow enclave, Feherty still plays golf about once a month. “It’s a mirror to the soul,” he says of the game he loves. As for other pearls of wisdom while one is walking the links, Feherty offers this: “If you’re ever in a Porta-John and there’s no toilet paper, make sure the leaf you use isn’t poison ivy. Trust me on that one.”

Point taken.

Steve Dougherty
Chris Coats in Dallas