Dal Daily knows what it feels like to be the Northeastern New York PGA’s king of the hill. The Albuquerque, New Mexico native was the section’s Player of the Year five times and won the prestigious NENY PGA Stroke Play Championship four times in a row to go along with two Donald Ross Classic titles and a Match Play crown in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
But the tall and lanky former teaching pro at the Roland Stafford School and head pro at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club, Windham Country Club and most recently Battenkill Country Club was ready to give up competitive golf back in June when it appeared Father Time finally got the best of him.
Now 61, Daily lost confidence and nearly his desire to tee it up with his fellow pros, especially since the state of his game no longer allowed him to be an elite player — despite countless hours of practicing and perfecting his craft.
All of that changed on June 16, when he got a little help from some friends.
“I’ve been 15 years sober,” Daily said proudly this week. “But 84 days ago, I hit rock-bottom with my attitude on the golf course. It was after the Donald Ross Classic, and I played so poorly that I made a comment on Facebook about giving up competitive golf. I wasn’t having fun, and I was bringing it home. So I decided to finally apply the 12-step recovery program I had used to give up drinking to improve my golf attitude and my game. I know how to use the program, but I wasn’t doing it.”
Since the day Daily began using the same type of mental techniques that helped him recover from alcohol abuse, his game completely turned around.
“My scoring average went from 77 prior to June 15 to 71 since then,” Daily said. “More importantly, I’m a happier and a more positive person. It was getting to me. Like so many extremely hyper competitive people, I was getting down on myself, but not anymore. I’m not doing one thing physically different with my game. Actually, I’ve done less as far as physical work and practice.”
Daily, who also has three NENY PGA Senior Player of the Year awards on his resume, credits good friend Tim Daigle, who played nine holes with him on that special June 16, as well as his “village” of helpers like Steven Yellin, Cameron Strachan, Bill Presse IV, Sam Hahn and Ben Jackson for helping him to get his head on straight.
“It’s silly stuff like looking at the birds and trees or keeping my head up instead of looking down when things go wrong,” Daily said. “It’s not a magic pill, but even on the days when I don’t play that well, it doesn’t bother me as much now. Cameron Strachan has been my putting coach, but he doesn’t let me practice more than five minutes on my putting. And Ben Jackson has helped me swing faster, but it’s more about the mental aspect of allowing myself to swing faster. It’s taken me a lot of years learning about the mental stuff, but I think I’ve got it now.”
Daily’s mental transformation appeared to be complete when he finished second to current section No. 1 Scott Berliner in the Professional Championship recently at Hiland Park CC. That runner-up effort qualified him for the National Professional Championship, something that’s been on his bucket list for a very long time.
“Like all golfers, I have a bucket list,” he explained. “I tried the [PGA] Tour School and the Senior Tour School, when I missed by four shots. I did play in one major, the 2013 Senior PGA Championship, but I never qualified for the PGA Professional Championship before. Now, I really have only one thing left on my bucket list — to shoot my age. To do that, you either have to play really, really well or get really, really old.
“This year has been so rewarding. Hopefully, I’ll be the oldest player at the National Professional Championship. My golf swing won’t change at 61, and my technique won’t change much, but my attitude and perspective have changed quite a bit.”
Daily is not only an exceptional player, but he’s also known for his teaching skills. I asked him what his most important fundamentals are.
“The No. 1 thing for me in teaching is the grip and setup,” he said. “But because of all the new technology, I’ve learned that there aren’t necessarily just one grip and one setup for everyone. You’ve got to match them up, and it’s really important. If you’re going to have a strong grip and be effective, then the person has to play a fade. It’s the opposite of what you think. If you have a weak grip, you need to play a draw.”
Daily is currently giving lessons at Premier Golf Fitness in Clifton Park. He’ll be heading to Florida permanently next month with his wife, Laura, and said he will miss all of his friends here in the Capital Region.
“I’ve spent about a third of my life here in this area,” said the University of New Mexico graduate. “But I’ll keep in touch and follow what everyone is doing back here.”
Scotia native Laura Diaz, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour, teamed up with Jan Stephenson to win the LPGA Legends Tour’s BJ’s Charity Championship this week at The Ridge Club in Sandwich, Massachusetts. They were 13 under par and edged the Trish Johnson-Laura Davies tandem by one stroke.
Scott Berliner, assistant pro at Saratoga Spa Golf Course, won the National Car Rental NENY PGA Assistant Professional Championship this week with a score of 68-71-139 at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. He won $1,200 and will compete in the 45th National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship Nov. 11-14 at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
The next event for the area club pros will be the Pro Classic No. 4 Monday at Waubeeka Country Club in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course will host the NENY PGA’s Match Play Qualifier on Wednesday, while Normanside CC entertains the Match Play Championship finals Sept. 21-22.
Deadline to sign up for the Hales Mills Club Championship is Sunday. Entry fee is $25. It will be a match play format. Call 518-736-4622 for more information.
Shaker Ridge Country Club hosts the NYS Mid-Amateur Championship Sept. 24-26.
The 2021 Bill Moll Triple Play Championship is set for Sept. 27 at Eagle Crest Golf Club. Two-person teams will compete in nine holes each of scramble, Chapman-alternate shot and best-ball formats. Entry fee is $240 per team. Team can consist of two amateurs or one amateur with one pro. Entry deadline is Sept. 20.
There are still three big events scheduled for Schenectady Municipal Golf Course this season. The Mayor’s Tournament will be held Sept. 21 with a 9 a.m. shotgun start. It will be a 9-hole event. The League of Champions tournament is set for Oct. 1-3 with single-elimination matches. The Bob Haggerty Two-Man Championship is scheduled for Oct. 9-10 with an entry fee of $150 per person. The entry fee includes a cart, lunch the first day and dinner the second day. Call Schenectady Municipal at 518-381-3155 for more information.
A benefit golf outing for the City Mission of Schenectady will be held Sept. 25 at Mohawk River Country Club & Chateau. Greens fees are $50, and a minimum tax deductible donation of $40 to the City Mission of Schenectady is requested. For more information, contact [email protected]
Rotary Clubs from throughout the Capital Region are sponsoring the 23rd annual “Gift of Life International Golf Tournament” on Sept. 20 at Pinehaven Country Club. Proceeds help provide funding to bring children from across the globe to Albany Medical Center for necessary pediatric heart surgery which cannot be performed in their home nations. To register to play or to support the event through sponsorships, go to www.gifttolife7190.org or call Richard Suker at 518-858-8839.
Michelle Rooney aced the 100-yard 14th hole with an 8-iron at Briar Creek. It was her second career hole-in-one.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].
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