Daley has newfound fame after Senior Players victory

Posted: July 13, 2012

After 21 years as a pro golfer, a period that included unending drives from Florida and Arizona to various tour stops, going broke a few times, and injuries, Joe Daley, at age 51, is finally famous thanks to his win in the Senior Players Championship.

He laughs at the thought.

"I don't know about that," Daley, a Plymouth Whitemarsh High School graduate, said this week as he prepared for Thursday's start of the U.S. Senior Open at Lake Orion, Mich.

"I was a guy that was always the underdog. I just kept convincing myself that I was going to play golf for a living. I've really enjoyed the journey. I've been to a lot of places, and I've played a lot of cool places."

Those "cool places" included the courses where he competed in Monday qualifying every week since becoming eligible for the Champions Tour. He got into seven events last year and five this season before his 2-stroke victory in the Seniors Players at Fox Chapel Golf Club near Pittsburgh on July 1.

The win earned him a $405,000 check - his largest payday ever - and a 12-month exemption on tour. If he finishes the year in the top 30 on the money list, the exemption is extended through 2013.

The feeling of being exempt, Daley said, "comes down to one word - wow!

"My wife and I have been saying 'Wow' a lot," he said. "That's pretty much the long and short of it. It just showed that I was on the right track with what I was doing."

Daley, who was born in Chestnut Hill and whose three sisters still live in the Philadelphia area, learned how popular his victory was when he looked at his telephone that night and saw what he estimated to be 130 text messages and about 50 voice mails.

Many of them were from the Philadelphia area, where he caddied at Philadelphia Cricket Club, Green Valley, and Sunnybrook. He became a junior member at Cricket and played for Plymouth Whitemarsh before attending Old Dominion as a walk-on.

Though he won a scholarship at ODU, Daley decided to go into business in Virginia after graduation. He worked as a lender and a credit manager until 1992, when "I quit my job, moved to Florida, got married, and started playing on the Canadian Tour."

The driving, in a Nissan 200SX, from Orlando to places like Victoria, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island, took its toll. He experienced lower-back issues, plus he didn't meet expenses and worked waiter jobs to pay his bills. He struggled with injuries and poor play but never wavered on competing.

"It's just one of those things," he said. "You put your nose to the grindstone and figure it out, get your mind right and do right.

"For me, it's a pretty simple equation: I practice and I play. I work out religiously - stretch bands, calisthenics, yoga, Tai-chi. I eat really well - a lot of protein, fruits, and veggies - and I get my rest. When I go in excess or not enough in those areas, then it reflects in my performance."

Daley, who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., has fared well in majors this year, finishing in a tie for fourth at the PGA Senior Championship before his win at the Players. He starts the Senior Open at Indianwood Golf and Country Club with confidence and momentum.

"I'll just go out and do the same thing that I've been doing," said Daley, who will play the first two rounds with Jerry Pate and Brad Bryant. "I was as prepared as I could be at the Players, and I'll make sure I'm prepared this week.

"The thing I have to make sure I do this week is get enough rest because I have a new respect for the guys who spend a lot of time answering questions from the media. It does take up a lot of energy. But it's really pretty cool."

He laughs again, newly famous at 51.

Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com, or follow hi on Twitter @joejulesinq.

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