ST. PETERSBURG – He sometimes hears jokes from the gallery, but learned a long time ago how to ignore them. When you’ve grown up on the brink of stardom, the world is filled with background noise.

He may be named after his father and chasing his father’s dream, but comparisons between John Daly and John Daly II are strictly family-friendly at this point in their lives.

On the one hand, it’s no longer mystifying how a man can drive a golf ball 300 yards from a fairway like his old man did to the delight of crowds in the 1990s. Daly II will occasionally beat his dad these days, he insists the strength of his game lies in his work around the greens.

And then there is the question of their personality. The PGA Tour had never seen anything like the original John Patrick Daly, who was skillful, brash, engaging and self-destructive, sometimes all in the same tour. He was among the most popular players on the tour despite – and perhaps because of – his reputation as a rowdy on and off the course.

Daly II, now 18, is calmer and less demonstrative. He describes himself as shy, although he says he strives to be more outgoing as his public profile grows.

And the son has the benefit of a model of recovery for a father.

“He tells me to do the opposite of him and you’ll be fine,” Daly II said Wednesday.

Daly II is in town this week to compete in the 96th New Years Invitational at St. Petersburg Country Club, a tournament that was won in previous years by former Masters champion Bob Goalby, Gary Koch and Brandt Snedeker.

Young Daly has been playing since he was old enough to run a club and is a regular contender on the American Junior Golf Association tour, but his status in the game was greatly enhanced when he and his father teamed up for win the PNC. Championship in Orlando a few days before Christmas.

They had come close to winning the father-son tournament in recent years, but this time they fought off Tiger Woods and his son, Charlie, nine times for a two-stroke victory.

“It was awesome. It was really the first year we went there for fun and family fun before the holidays,” said Daly II. Feels good to be able to beat Tiger Woods.

“I’ll brag about it for a long time.”

Truth be told, Daly II ran in these circles for much of his life. His father was granted primary custody of him shortly after his parents separated when he was 7 and JD, as his friends call him, traveled from class to class while being homeschooled and practicing. his own game.

At this point his dad was in his 40s and his best days were in the past, but Daly was still a huge draw and would get tournament invites around the world.

“I don’t really remember much from the time, other than the fact that I used to heckle Tour guys on the greens,” said Daly II.

After a few years of that, it became clear that life on the PGA Tour could be tough without many other people his age. Daly, who moved to Clearwater around this time, enrolled his son in a private school in Orlando and then secured him a spot at the IJGA Bishops Gate Golf Academy.

Daly II recently started his first season at the University of Arkansas and says he can already see the difference in skill level between junior tournaments and college major.

At this point in his life, he is not ready to claim a possible professional career. He’s got enough power and skill to grab attention, but he’s known 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 has studied the 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 be forever delayed. to these standards.

Is this a good thing for a teenager who is just starting out in the sport?

“I don’t know,” Daly II said before settling into an extended hiatus.

“I guess we’ll find out.”

About the tournament

What: 96th Annual New Years Invitation

Or: St. Petersburg Country Club

When: Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. departure of the shotgun; Sunday 9:30 am departure of the hunting rifle

Admission: To free

Story: The amateur tournament has been played continuously on the same course (formerly 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 finalist and former Jesuit Matthew Ruel, fourth place 2021 Jansen Preston, 2020 Florida amateur champion Dean Greyserman, AJGA junior champion Reed Greyserman


John Romano can be contacted at [email protected]. Follow @romano_tbtimes.