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John Daly returns with new clubs and a new attitude

May 28, 1997

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) _ John Daly is back, and this time he says it will be different. This time he knows simply quitting alcohol is not enough.

``This time I learned an awful lot,″ Daly said Tuesday at Muirfield Village, site of this week’s Memorial Tournament. ``I actually read books. I surrounded myself with people that love me for the problem that I have.″

The key change, Daly said, is that he is committed to an aftercare program, something he didn’t do after his rehab in 1993. Daly’s contract with Callaway Golf _ his new equipment company _ requires that he participates in such a program.

The Callaway deal runs through 2001 and ``is top-loaded with incentives in the later years of the contract,″ an industry source said, making it financially wise for Daly to stay sober for at least the length of the contract.

A Callaway commercial that will debut on Thursday shows Daly hitting ball after ball and then ends with a black screen and the white letters: ``Keep It Straight, John,″ an ironic play on words.

``I’m here because I love John Daly and I want to help him in any way I can,″ chairman and founder Ely Callaway said Tuesday as he appeared at a PGA Tour event for the first time in 10 years, a sign of his commitment to Daly.

Daly, who started drinking when he was 8 years old, said he feels like he has found a family he can build his future around, both in those he shares counselling with and in his new equipment company.

``Mr. Callaway, the short time that I’ve known him, is like a father figure,″ Daly said. ``I feel like I’m an adopted son already.″

At only 31 years of age, a proven winner with a PGA Championship and a British Open to his credit and a huge fan favorite because of his length off the tee, Daly is a sensible gamble for Callaway that could pay off big down the road.

For now, Daly, who says he smokes at least 50 cigarettes a day, sees the future in very narrow terms.

``I don’t really have a lot of expectations this week,″ he said. ``Just getting back into rhythm, the basics of my game.″

Asked what his goals were for the rest of the year, Daly paused, glanced down at his lap, shook his head almost sadly and said:

``I don’t know. I just want to get through today.″

Daly says he knows what he needs to do to make his return to golf a permanent recovery from alcoholism. Whenever he feels he is about to fall off the wagon, all he has to do is remember the night he hit rock bottom.

``I want to remember that night the rest of my life, how bad it really was,″ Daly said. ``If I could do that, it’s going to get me through a tough day, if I want to have one or something,″ he said as he prepared for his first tournament since he withdrew from the Players Championship on March 28 after a drunken spree.

``When I woke up,″ he said about the night his drinking bout ended in a smashed-up hotel room, ``I mean my agents were there, my caddie was there and Donnie (his best friend) was there, and I saw the sadness in their eyes.″

Two days later, Daly and Donnie Crabtree drove straight through from Memphis to Palm Springs and the Betty Ford center.

In rapid fashion, his wife Paulette filed for divorce and Wilson terminated its lucrative contract with him.

Now, eight weeks and 32 pounds later and with a new equipment company backing him, Daly is ready to try to return to competitive golf. He’s been down this road before, returning to the tour in 1993 after alcohol rehabilitation.

That stint of sobriety ended late last summer with experiments at social drinking that soon lapsed into alcoholism.

This time, he says, it will be different.

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