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Golf commentator Feherty has tongue in cheek (now)

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PASADENA -- "I once got my tongue stuck to a flagpole in Winnipeg."

When this statement -- admittedly, not all that uncommon among wistful men who were once curious boys in our chilly Prairie burg -- comes out of the mouth of a non-Canadian, it's sure to arouse a bit of curiosity in the listener.

And when the reminiscence comes from David Feherty -- reformed golfer, recovering alcoholic, fairway commentator, attention-deficit sufferer, author, talk-show host and all-around brilliant raconteur -- well, you just know there's got to be an amusing yarn attached to it.

That was most definitely the case this week on the TV press tour, when a handshake introduction at a cocktail party prompted Feherty to launch into his tale of ill-advised mouth-on-metal experimentation during a wintertime visit to Winnipeg several years back.

"I was there to do a speaking engagement," Feherty recalls. "It was back when I was still drinking, so it must have been more than six years ago.

"It's not like it was a dare or anything; I basically dared myself. I was on my way back to my hotel, having been kidnapped earlier in the evening by Serge Savard -- for some reason, he recognized me and said, 'Come and drink with me,' and I did, because he looked like he was going to pick me up and use me as a comb or something.

"Anyway, I don't remember a whole lot more, except that I was walking back to the hotel, which I couldn't find, and I was carrying a cup of hot coffee that had a couple of Irish whiskies in it. You needed something warm -- it wasn't that you could see your breath; it was so cold that you could hear your breath hit the ground -- and I was blundering around Winnipeg like an idiot and I noticed this flagpole, and thought, 'I wonder if your tongue really would stick to it.' And of course, there's only one way to really find out, which is by experimenting the way I did. And you know what? It does.

"Fortunately, hot coffee and alcohol is one of the remedies. It took me a while to work that out, but I was eventually able to free myself."

Whether it's a true story, a geographically misplaced exaggeration or a bit of good old Irish blarney isn't relevant. What mattered in the moment was that it's a funny story told by a very, very funny fellow.

Feherty was in attendance during NBC's portion of the U.S. networks' semi-annual press tour in Los Angeles because his eponymous series on the Golf Channel (owned by NBC/Universal) is about to launch its third season (Feb. 25). It's a show hosted by a former golfer on a golf-focused specialty channel, but Feherty is something more than a golf show. During its first two seasons, only about half Feherty's interview subjects have been golfers; the host has also done wide-ranging interviews with the likes of former U.S. president Bill Clinton, actors Samuel L. Jackson and Don Cheadle, NFL quarterback Tony Romo and basketball greats Bill Russell and Charles Barkley.

When asked how he'd made such a smooth transition from competitive golf to the broadcast booth and the talk-show stage, Feherty confessed that he never really considered golf his dream career.

"(TV) is what I've always wanted to do, oddly enough," said the Irish-born 54-year-old. "When I turned pro at 17, I said I probably wouldn't play golf past the age of 40, which is probably the only sensible thing I said in my teens. I was a five handicap, so it probably wasn't a great idea to turn pro in the first place.

"But when I was 36 or 37, they offered me the (TV) job, and I told them I'd love to, but I thought I still had a couple of good years left to play. And then they told me how much they were going to pay me, and I said, 'Do you want to buy a set of clubs?' At the tournament I was at, I didn't even bother playing the second round; I showed up the next day and I was a commentator.

"I can honestly say I never felt comfortable on the golf course as a player. Yes, I played at the highest level, but it never really seemed like it was the right job for me. I was too much of a (screw) up.... When I ended up in broadcasting, it just felt like this is what I was meant to do."

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 9, 2013 D3

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