Phila. native Daley wins Champions Tour major

Posted: July 02, 2012

After a good career as a Philadelphia-area amateur, Joe Daley worked in the business world before the lure of golf brought him back to the game as a professional, and he toiled for more than 20 years on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.

Finally, on a hot day in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh, with three former major champions breathing down his neck, Daley kept his emotions under control Sunday and won a major - the Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club.

Daley, 51, who was born in Chestnut Hill and graduated from Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, fired a 2-under-par 68 for a 72-hole score of 14-under 266 and a 2-stroke victory over Tom Lehman.

Daley, who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., played in the final group with Mark Calcavecchia, with whom he had been tied for the lead after three rounds, and Fred Couples. But neither posed a threat in the closing holes, and each finished 4 shots back.

"These guys are Hall of Famers and major tournament winners, and I've been watching them to see what they do relative to how I can improve my own game," Daley said in his post-round interview. "Fred is super laid-back. Calc's laid-back, too, but he's intense. He wants to make birdies. It's actually pretty cool. . . .

"They're both very good competitors and gentlemen, and I very much enjoyed being with them."

It was a landmark win for Daley, whose previous 341 events on what is now the Tour (formerly Nike,, and Nationwide Tour), and the PGA and Champions Tours had yielded just two Tour victories, in 1997 and 2005.

Sunday's win gave him his largest-ever payday, $405,000, and an exemption on the Champions Tour through July 1, 2013. He jumped to fourth place on the Charles Schwab Cup points list and 15th on the tour's money list.

"On the Nationwide Tour, I was exempt numerous years because I won a couple tournaments out there," he said. "I was never exempt on the PGA Tour. . . .

"Even when I wasn't exempt I still went to Monday qualifying events. I still pursued it. It didn't matter. I went over to Australia and New Zealand whenever I could . . . Mexico, Panama, I always was willing to play, get a hotel, caddie, 'Let's go play.' I kept doing that throughout my whole career regardless of my status."

Daley, a graduate of Old Dominion, worked in the lending business until he became a pro in 1991.

"I moved to Florida, played the mini-tours, got better," he said. "I went broke a couple of times, worked waiter jobs and whatever I had to do to get it done. And I got better, got my tour card in '95."

Daley opened up some ground with back-to-back birdie putts of 12 feet at the ninth hole and 14 feet at No. 10. He stood on the 18th tee with a 2-stroke lead and, after Lehman birdied the hole, sank a 20-foot putt for a birdie and the win.

"I had good, positive vibes from everybody, which helped me as I went along," said Daley, who tied for fourth this year in the Senior PGA Championship. "I had my friends come in. My sister was here. It was all good karma in the right direction.

"The key was just for me to go out and pick a good line and make a good swing at it and move on to the next one, and that's what I kept doing."

Daley is excited about his new exempt status on the Champions Tour but said his big paycheck won't change him.

"Really what I want to do is pay off my mortgage," he said.

Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or Follow @joejulesinq on Twitter.

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