Golf Analyst David Feherty Was A Keynote Hit At 32nd Annual CARE Breakfast Blending Addiction Struggles With Irish Humor

One behind-the-scenes story speaks volumes about the irreverent, freewheeling nature of the sold-out 32nd annual CARE Breakfast, which was held Wednesday, November 9, at the Belo Mansion and “starred” keynote speaker David Feherty, the hilarious NBC Sports pro golf reporter—and recovering addict.

It seems, we were told, that David learned about the kidney replacement surgery undergone a while back by Norm Bagwell, husband of CARE Dallas mainstay Robin Bagwell. Once Norm received his new kidney from Robin, David was told, his golf handicap plummeted from 14 to 5. Whereupon the morning’s keynoter cracked that if Norm “had only had his spleen taken out, he could have been a scratch golfer!”

Robin Bagwell, David Feherty and Norm Bagwell*

The golf theme—Irish-born Feherty, after all, is a former pro on both the European and PGA tours—was prominent during the breakfast, a big fundraiser for CARE Dallas and its work to educate the community about the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. The table centerpieces, for example, were clever decorations consisting of green felt, two golf balls, and a spray of red tees.

Following the “serenity” prayer delivered by the Rev. Paul Rasmussen, CARE’s new executive director, Susan Morgan, explained that CARE Dallas is a “safe and confidential place for families to learn about resources that are available to fight addiction.” In 2017, she added, the nonprofit plans to start up several new support groups.

Scott and Jan Osborn*

Then Robin, who’s been involved with CARE for 16 years, presented the group’s Margaret Sharpe Community Service Award to her pal Jan Osborn, an eight-year veteran of the group and the board chair for three years. Said Robin: “My greatest accomplishment was bringing Jan Osborn on to the board.” When Jan proceeded to deliver the world’s shortest acceptance speech—basically just saying thanks—Terry Bentley Hill took the stage and quipped, “If this was the Academy Awards, the orchestra hadn’t even pulled up the violins yet.” With that she introduced the keynoter, Feherty, calling him a “combination of Oprah and Johnny Carson.”

Terry Bentley Hill*

It was an apt description, if a little too G-rated.

At the lectern, Feherty set the tone right off the bat: “The first thing I thought this morning when I woke up was, ‘Hey, shit. I need a drink!’” After some jokes about the weak urinary stream of a 58-year-old man—that’s him—he quickly turned serious. “There’s no such thing as ‘recovery,’” he said. “Any addict knows that. I don’t need to be sober the rest of my life. I just need to be sober today.”

But then, soon enough, he was back to cracking wise: “The doctor asked me, ‘Have you ever thought about getting help?’ And I said, ‘No, I can drink it all by myself!’ ”

With that Feherty took off on the “dark sense of humor” found in his native Northern Ireland: “I don’t know if my father was an alcoholic, but he made a solid attempt at being one.” He introduced his 86-year-old mother, Vi Feherty—she was sitting in the audience—and said she’s been married for 63 years to Feherty’s 91-year-old father, Bill Feherty, who’s suffering now** from Alzheimer’s. The disease has its upside, Feherty said, explaining that Billy “broke out of his assisted living home, but couldn’t remember why he broke out. So he broke back in.” When Billy would come home late years ago after drinking at the club, Feherty recalled, his dad would ask Vi, “Is my dinner still warm?” And she would reply, “Yes. It’s in the dog.”

David Feherty*

Then came a series of random—and hilarious—stories and quips:

  • “A cop says to a drunk, ‘Sir, can you step out of the car?’ ‘No, I’m too drunk. You get in.’ ”
  • “The only reason I’m here today is because [Jan] Osborn has pictures of me with a goat.”
  • “I love Texas. It’s like America—except better.”

Concluding his entertaining talk, Feherty waxed serious again about his struggles with addiction. After his “career and marriage ended on the same day,” he recalled, he began taking 20 to 30 pills, plus two bottles of whiskey, daily. … “I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great drunks and with some bad drunks,” Feherty said. “I was a spectacular drunk!

“I was sober the best part of 10 years, until 10 months ago,” he went on. “Like most alcoholics, I can’t believe it came back to bite me. I ended up in the Mayo Clinic rehab center in Rochester [Minnesota]. There are more friggin’ bars in that town! It was probably the worst 11 days of my life.” Turns out, Feherty had been suffering from a neurological disease in which “the frontal lobe of the brain doesn’t work properly,” he said. “It’s called the Comic’s Disease—Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters had it. … But, I’ve been sober for a few months now—again.” (At that, the crowd applauded enthusiastically.)

He ended on a poignant note: “I can drink it all by myself,” Feherty said. “But I can’t be sober without your help.”

Many in the crowd, it seemed, could relate.

* Photo credit: Rhi Lee 
** Editor's note: Billy Feherty died two weeks later on Thanksgiving morning

Author/Sportscaster David Feherty Steps In For Susan Hawk As Keynote Speaker At 32nd Annual CARE Breakfast In November

David Feherty*

David Feherty*

Anyone who has experienced a David Feherty talk knows the former professional golfer/NBC sportscaster/author is a master at storytelling. With a twinkle in his eye and the charm a leprechaun would envy, the bearded Irishman regales folks about people and issues. Whether it’s questioning the return of Tiger Woods to greatness or admitting to his own demons, he doesn’t hold back, but he does it with humor.

In discussing his own struggle with depression and drug/alcohol abuse, he told Golf Digest , “a typical day was 30-40 Vicodin and two and a half bottles of whiskey…real whiskey. Whiskey with an ‘e.’ There was cocaine, there was dope. When I think about it now I’m like, ‘Why am I alive?’”

It’s that self-revelation, plus tales of his shenanigans after winning the Scottish Open in 1986 and the all-too-well-known people who helped him in his recovery, that David will provide at the 32nd Annual CARE Breakfast on Wednesday, November 9, at Belo Mansion.

BTW, David is stepping in for Dallas District Attorney Susan Hawk, “who was originally scheduled for the event.” Due to Susan’s seeking help in fighting her own issues with depression, she had to bow out.

* Photo provided by CARE

M.D. Anderson’s Living Legends Luncheon To Feature Two Pros Of The Greens — Ben Crenshaw And David Feherty

Ben Crewshaw*

Ben Crewshaw*

David Feherty*

David Feherty*

You do not have to be a golf groupie to be part of the MD Anderson’s “A Conversation With A Living Legend” luncheon on Monday, November 3, at the Hilton Anatole. Sure, Austin-born, golf great Ben Crenshaw will be the headliner with his amazing story of both professional success on the greens (PGA wins including the memorable 1995 Masters victory, and Ryder Cup) in addition to having Graves’ disease. Thanks to his mentor the late Harvey Penick, Ben’s putting has become the stuff even the pros dream of.

And who will be interviewing this formidable legend? Irish-born, golf loving, never-shy David Feherty. Feherty himself played the professional golf circuit, but changed direction and is now a commentator on NBC’s Golf Channel. The exchange between Crenshaw and Feherty will be fascinating for even those who have never even played putt-putt golf.

Deborah Gunter is chairing the event that is being presented by Andrews Distributing Company and ATT.

The funds raised will go to MD Anderson’ Cancer Center’s Moon Shots Program, a comprehensive effort to accelerate the fight against cancer. Tickets are available here.

BTW, please don’t wear your cleats to the luncheon.

* Photos provided by MD 
Anderson