For Joe Daley, a long ride to Players Championship

Joe Daley hits his tee shot on the sixth hold during the third round at the Senior Players Championship golf tournament at the Fox Chapel Country Club in Fox Chapel, Pa., Saturday, June 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Joe Daley hits his tee shot on the sixth hold during the third round at the Senior Players Championship golf tournament at the Fox Chapel Country Club in Fox Chapel, Pa., Saturday, June 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: May 09, 2013

Joe Daley uses the words lucky and phenomenal to describe his journey from credit manager to golf nomad to PGA Tour member to the oldest man ever to make his first-ever appearance in the Players Championship, which begins Thursday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Daley, 52, who was born in Chestnut Hill and graduated from Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, earned a berth in what observers like to call "golf's fifth major" by winning the 2012 Senior Players Championship in suburban Pittsburgh.

In his two seasons on the PGA Tour, Daley never participated in the Players Championship. His only trip to the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass came after he got his tour card in December, and he holed out from the 10th fairway for an eagle.

"It took me a while to get here, but I'm here," Daley said Wednesday in a telephone interview. "Everything is going great. I feel like my game is coming along pretty good. I think I've prepared well."

Daley has been on quite a ride since July 1, when he finished 2 strokes ahead of Tom Lehman to win the Senior Players. Before that, he had only two wins - both on what is now called the Web.com Tour - in 341 events on the Web.com, PGA, and Champions Tours.

Daley won more than $630,000 last year on the 50-and-over tour, ranking 27th on the money list, and earning a free pass for 2013.

"It's just phenomenal," Daley said. "Everybody has been absolutely fabulous. I'm getting to play all these cool golf courses. The guys have been great. It couldn't be better. I've played in 20-some different countries. I haven't counted the number of golf courses. But it's been a cool life.

"I've asked my wife every December, is she cool with this, and she says to keep doing what I do. I'm a lucky guy. I talked to an old accountant friend who told me millions of people would love to do what I'm doing. He said if I ever got tired of it, he would put me to work. It's been an interesting journey."

Daley graduated in 1983 from Old Dominion with a finance degree and worked in that field until golf's lure became too great. After turning pro in 1991, he played all over the world, admitting he "went broke a couple of times," before making the PGA Tour for the 1996 season.

The journey has been a bit bumpy this year. Daley has not posted a top-10 finish in eight starts, with his best showing a tie for 14th at the season-opening event in Hawaii.

Daley said he believes that he will do better once the weather turns hot and he is able to get his neck, shoulders, and back loose.

"That will allow me to be a little freer in my swing instead of feeling tight," he said. "I'd like it to be in the 90s and humid."

Daley is the seventh Champions Tour player to compete in the Players since the exemption was created in 2007. Only one, Mark O'Meara in 2011, made the 36-hole cut.

Daley averages just more than 267 yards from the tee, a disadvantage on some of the longer par 4s on the 7,215-yard course. But he is 19th on the Champions Tour in hitting fairways and 18th in putting, two areas that should help him succeed at Sawgrass. He will tee off at 12:25 p.m. Thursday.

"The golf course is in great shape, and it's going to play fast," he said. "This is as good as it gets."


Contact Joe Juliano at jjuliano@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @JoeJulesInq.

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