Thursday, July 01, 2010

David Feherty's Red, White And Blue Fourth

This will be David Feherty's first Fourth of July as an American citizen. A native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, Feherty became a naturalized citizen on Feb. 23 this year and has a red, white and blue streak that runs as deep and rich as his humor.

Feherty, a former Ryder Cup golfer now best known for his funny and perceptive commentary on CBS Sports' golf telecasts, is host of a one-hour special Saturday at 2 p.m. on CBS called 'Golf Magazine Presents: David Feherty's American Journey.'

It's partly Feherty's story and his deep admiration and affection for American troops, particularly soldiers who have been seriously injured in combat. He hosts six outings a year for soldiers who are missing limbs as a result of their military service. It's a bond that developed two years ago when Feherty made his first visit to Baghdad, a trip he says convinced him to become an American citizen.

"They are the reason I am an American citizen," Feherty said during a phone conversation this week. "It's because of the unbelievable job they are doing and the extraordinary strength of the bond that exists between them. I had to become an American once I saw what they are doing."

In addition to showing Feherty's interaction with the soldiers -- it includes a surprise visit from Tiger Woods -- the show also features the stories of four high-profile people:

-- Former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice;

-- Charles Kelley, lead singer for Lady Antebellum;

-- No. 1 NFL draft pick quarterback Sam Bradford;

-- And, PGA Tour player Anthony Kim.

It's an interesting cross-section of people Feherty chose, in part to show the diversity in America, tying it to golf. He talks to Rice about her childhood in Montgomery, Ala., where she was a competitive ice skater; he talks to Kim about avoiding the gang life in Los Angeles; he talks to Bradford about the pressure of being the No. 1 pick in the draft; and, he talks to Kelley about his decision to pursue music and, finally, hitting it big.

The common thread, beyond golf, is how they have excelled by pushing themselves.

"If you're willing to be in the right place at the right time and do things that unsuccessful people don't want the responsibility for, then the American dream is alive and well," Feherty said.

"These four people were willing to be in a place they knew would be uncomfortable. It's absolutely an essential ingredient for success. You have to want the responsibility for things that unsuccessful people don't want. You have to be the one who says, 'I want the ball. Give me the ball.'"

During the show, Feherty critiqued Rice's golf swing and even hit a few shots himself. He's hardly played golf over the last several years and because of serious injuries suffered in a cycling accident, he's lost some of the feeling in his left arm. But he hit some shots for the show and was surprised by how good they were.

While Feherty is the host and the show is framed around his journey to citizenship, it's primarily about the others, he said. Feherty will be working the AT&T National tournament in Philadelphia this week, a perfect Fourth of July spot.

A year ago in the same tournament, Feherty was walking with Woods who came off the 17th green on Sunday with a one-shot lead. Feherty tapped Woods on the shoulder and asked if PFC Brendan Marrocco, a soldier who had lost both arms, both legs and one eye in combat, could be pushed down the 18th fairway as Woods played the final hole. Woods said yes, gave Marrocco a fist pump as he went to the 18th tee and stood back to allow the soldier, pushed by his father and brother, to be recognized as he came up the 18th hole.

"It was a cathartic moment," Feherty said. "You could see his dignity flooding back. It's not just their arms and legs that they lose. It's their dignity they lose.

"I was pushing him and crying like (Gary) McCord at a Barry Manilow concert."