Roars of laughter filled the dining room at Hollytree Country Club on Monday as David Feherty, noted humorist, author and golf commentator, entertained during the annual UT Tyler Patriot Golf Classic luncheon.
Feherty, who has worked on the CBS golf crew for 17 years after competing as a professional golfer both in Europe and in America, told “true stories that are not really jokes.” His speech was much like when he is on TV, whether with announcer Jim Nantz or on his Golf Channel program.
He spoke of his journey from his native Northern Ireland to the United States, along with overcoming addiction to alcohol and painkillers during his hour-long talk that had the audience enamored. The 55-year-old talked not only of golf, but also family and politics.
Before Feherty made his way to the podium, Dr. Rodney H. Mabry, UT Tyler president, said the Patriot Classic has raised some $1.2 million for scholarships throughout the years, including $200,000 from last year’s event.
Feherty complimented those in attendance for helping fund the UT Tyler scholarship program, saying “Education is the great equalizer.”
Feherty grew up in war-torn Northern Ireland, not knowing if he was Irish or British.
“I had both an Irish and British passport,” Feherty said, “but I didn’t feel a connection to either until I got a lump in my throat after they raised the Irish flag” following the conclusion of the 1990 Dunhill Cup golf competition when Ireland defeated Great Britain in the final. “My gosh, I guess I’m Irish.”
He has no trouble with his nationality now after becoming an American citizen four years ago.
“I don’t think the average American is aware how generous a nation we are,” said Feherty, who resides in Dallas with his wife Anita and their five children. “We are an extraordinary group of people, Americans.”
Feherty said he has been to Iraq and Afghanistan six times in showing his support for the U.S. Military. He has “Feherty’s Troops First Foundation.”
According to the website, it “works to provide meaningful assistance to our military who have been wounded while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Through several relevant and unduplicated programs, along with specialized events designed for Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom combat-wounded service members and their families, Troops First addresses relationship building, mentoring, reintegration and looking forward.”
He created the foundation because of his first-hand witness of the U.S. Military.
“I have seen the incredible passion and restraint our troops have shown,” he said. He added the liberation of Iraq “by our nation is the greatest achievement in mankind.
“Now, there is a chance to educate their children, their little girls and women. … One of the tragedies of the Middle East or any other country is they didn’t’ have a Thomas Jefferson.”
He noted Jefferson came up with the phrase “separation of church and state” from the Virginia Resolution that James Madison included in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.
“That is why the scholarships are so important,” Feherty said. “We educate our children, and they are afraid to, they are afraid they may turn into Americans.
“Visiting our troops, I feel I have a keen sense of what is wonderful about this country. Every morning I wake up, the first thing I do is check and see if I’m still an American.”
He added, “In 237 years, we have become the greatest force in the world for good — without question. … The four reasons for this country, in no particular order, are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.”
Feherty, who won 10 tournaments, including the 1986 Scottish Open, said he was a huge fan of oil, coal and gas and thanked the many petroleum-affiliated golfers in attendance for their work.
He closed with, “America is a big melting pot and that is true. I got that same feeling in my throat when they gave me an American passport (after becoming an American citizen).”
“I don’t want to be an Irish-American. I don’t want us to be African-American or an Italian-American or a Polish-American. I just want us to be Americans.”