ORLANDO – Central Florida golf fans are about to get a double dose of John Daly. He’ll compete this week for the first time in the PNC Father/Son Challenge (with his 13-year-old son, Little John) that begins Thursday at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando.
And next month, a bonus: Daly will be back in town to compete in the Diamond Resorts Invitational at Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort Orlando, news that was officially released Tuesday.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is in its second year, but adds a new twist for this edition, to be played Jan. 13-15: In addition to the celebrity portion of the field, 30 PGA Tour Champions players will play in this year’s tournament in their own division, competing for a purse of $750,000 as a “Challenge Season” competition played the week before the tour opens its season at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
Early commitments include Daly, the former PGA and British Open champion who debuted on the PGA Tour Champions earlier this year, as well as major winners Mark Calcavecchia, Lee Janzen and Jeff Sluman. Also playing are John Cook and Scott Hoch.
The celebrities will compete for their own $500,000 purse. Commitments include Marcus Allen, Emmitt Smith, Brian Urlacher and Mark Rypien from the NFL; baseball’s Roger Clemens, Justin Verlander, Josh Donaldson, Mark Mulder, Brian McCann, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux; former NHL standouts Jeremy Roenick and Mike Modano; musicians Jake Owen, Colt Ford and Cole Swindell; and comedian Larry the Cable Guy.
Tennis player Mardy Fish captured the inaugural Diamond Resorts Invitational title a year ago at the Golden Bear Club at Keene’s Point, winning in the Stableford points format over former MLB pitcher Rick Rhoden.
The tournament kicks off Jan. 12 with the fourth annual Brian Gay Pro-Am presented by DRI. In three years, Gay’s pro-am has raised more than $1.7 million for Florida Hospital for Children, which also is the charity arm for the DRI.
Daly, who turned 50 on April 28, played in 15 PGA Tour Champions events in 2016, his best finish being a tie for 11th at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open. He owns five PGA Tour titles, the biggest being the 1991 PGA Championship and 1995 Open Championship at St. Andrews.
Just prior to getting out onto the PGA Tour Champions, Daly said he was looking forward to a new start in his career after spending a few years patching together a limited schedule in the U.S. and across Europe. He was looking forward to establishing more rhythm to his scheduling and to his play.
“It’s kind of like … I don’t know how you explain it,” Daly said. “I guess it’s like being a rookie again, and having another career to be able to support the family, support myself. I’ll do some great things, hopefully. It’s the only sport in the world that you can still make a great living when you’re over 50.”