Football 101: No. 25, Dan Marino
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In 1991, I took a sports columnist job at The Augusta Chronicle in Augusta, Ga. I was 24 years old, and it was obviously very exciting because I knew that for one week a year, I would be at the very center of sportswriting — I would be the sportswriter that all the sportswriters read at the Masters.
My only real problem was that I didn’t know a single thing about golf.
Nothing. That’s not an exaggeration. I’d never played a round of golf. I’d never covered a golf tournament. I’ve told this story before, but shortly before I became columnist in the city of golf’s biggest event, I was taking phone calls … and someone called in the score for a captain’s choice tournament. I had never heard the term “captain’s choice,” and so I was mesmerized by the whole concept. Wait, every person hits from the spot of the best shot? That’s awesome! I had the person explain the concept to me over and over and over again, much their surprise, and then I wrote an extensive story about this wonderful format, how interesting it was, how charming …
Thankfully had an editor who read it and killed it and said to me, “You know that captain’s choice is like the most common kind of golf tournament. You do know that, right?”
I did not know that, no.
I did not know ANYTHING about golf until I got to Augusta.
Yes, right about now you are asking why I’m talking about golf when I should be talking about the 25th greatest player in pro football history, great Dan Marino, the best pure passer in the chronicle of the world.
Yeah. We’re getting there.
Before the 1992 Masters, the Chronicle sent our golf writer David Westin and me down to Miami and the Doral Open so we could do all our Masters preview stuff. I cannot begin to tell you all the embarrassing things that happened there, as I asked golfers impossibly awkward questions that reflected my complete ignorance of the game of golf. I mostly just remember Curtis Strange snapping at me.
But the most embarrassing happened after I asked John Daly for some interview time. Incredibly, this wasn’t because of John Daly himself. He’s actually the hero of this story. Daly had, only months earlier, become the phenom of golf with his impossible and unforgettable victory at the PGA Championship. He had gripped it and ripped it and hit the longest drives anyone had ever seen, and he blew away the field and he became the hottest thing the sport had seen since … I don’t know, maybe ever. Everybody wanted to see what would happen when Daly showed up at staid old Augusta National. It was a big story for me.
So I gingerly approached Daly and told him what I needed, and at the time he was signing like a million autographs and he said, sort of distractedly: “Come on out tomorrow morning to the Pro-Am, and you can walk with me.”
After finding out what a “Pro-Am” is, I showed up the next morning fully expecting Daly to not remember any part of this invitation, but to my great surprise, Daly not only remembered me, he called me over. I then spent a few holes walking with him as he played, and it remains one of the greatest sports experiences of my life. Daly was smoking darts and hitting darts and breaking hearts and it was like being in the middle of a country music song. He could not have been nicer or better copy.
OK, so you probably already knew what a Pro-Am is — Daly was there to play with three amateur golfers who, I assume, had paid a fairly hefty sum to golf with John Daly.
And one of those amateur golfers was, yes, Dan Marino.