David Feherty is getting rather serious about the latest chapter of his career — as a stand-up comedian.
he Bangor-born former golf star’s one-man show tour resumes in the United States tonight after being postponed by the pandemic.
And the 63-year-old has found himself with more time on his hands after his long-running television chat show was cancelled earlier this year by the Golf Channel.
The reformed alcoholic and drug-addict’s pre-Covid forays onto the stage had already garnered rave reviews, with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporting: “Feherty was uproariously funny. It was two hours of zaniness and madcap storytelling. People were coming out of their seats with laughter.”
But David admitted: “I’m still pretty frightened every time I do it. I’m a basket case backstage. I’m OK when the bell rings, but not in the hours leading up to it.”
Ironically, the former Bangor Grammar pupil hasn’t had a lot to laugh about in recent years.
The cancellation of his TV show after its 10-year-run followed on from the deaths of his 29-year-old son Shey from a drugs overdose and his father Billy, aged 91, who had been suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Having dabbled with live comedy before, the golf commentator and analyst has now brought his ‘2021 David Feherty Wandering Around On His Own’ tour to larger venues such as tonight at the Gallo Centre in Modesto, California, which holds over 1,200 people.
The show is billed as a mixture of anecdotes about famous golfers such as Tiger Woods — who deliberately mispronounces David’s surname as ‘Farty’ — and his Northern Ireland upbringing and US broadcasting career.
Texas-based David, the middle child of three born to Billy and his wife Violet, dropped out of school at 17 to play golf.
Despite being hooked on alcohol in his mid-teens, he competed in the Ryder Cup, won five tournaments in Europe, three in South Africa and came close to winning two Open championships.
But after winning the 1986 Scottish Open he woke up on a putting green 150 miles away with no recollection of how he got there, or what happened to the trophy.
He often cites second wife Anita Schneider — a successful interior designer with two sons from a previous relationship, and mother of their daughter Erin (23) — for finally weaning him off alcohol.
Revealing he has been sober for more than the best part of two decades — except for a two-week bender when he returned to Northern Ireland for his dad’s 80th birthday in June 2005 — David added that he still struggles with depression and bipolar disorder and takes a mixture of antidepressants, mood stabilisers and amphetamines every day.
Indeed, few subjects are out-of-bounds in the Feherty stand-up routine; he talks about his relationship with his parents in Co Down, his first marriage to South African model and beauty queen Caroline deWit, with whom he had two sons prior to their divorce in 1995, and his mental health issues. Shey’s tragic death on his 29th birthday, after a lethal mixture of alcohol and cocaine will, however, never get a mention.
“He was the sweetest boy you could ever meet,” David told Golf Digest magazine. “He liked people, and people liked him. He had that kind of personality.
“But he was lost in so many ways. He reminded me a lot of me, which is just one of the reasons I can’t help but feel devastated and guilty about what happened to him.”
Billy Feherty died in November 2016, just a few months after his son revealed that his beloved dad had been “stolen from him by Alzheimer’s”.
David added that, in his view, what Billy was going through was “worse than death”, and that he’d rather remember the ex-Belfast docks surveyor for what he was, rather than what he had become.
“At least dead people aren’t around anymore,” he said.
“I remember him racing me up the steps at Ward Park on the way home from church and never letting me win until the day I did. I remember how loud he sang in church, and how embarrassed I was because of it.”
But anyone expecting a morose monologue from the Co Down man can think again.
As American golf writer John Feinstein wrote after seeing one of David’s early routines in Atlanta, Georgia: “People can’t stay in their seats, they are laughing so hard.
“One woman, who has been letting out loud whoops at the punchline of every story, doubles over, unable to stop laughing.
“The stand-up is his life story — told as only he can tell it.
“It includes a good deal of bathroom humour, plenty of profanity and some poignant moments, especially when he talks about his parents and his wife Anita.”
It was Anita who got Feherty sober after threatening to leave him for good after a particularly bad bender witnessed by the then six-year-old Erin, who asked him, innocently, if he needed another bottle of Bushmills — and he sent her to get one.