Every youngster wishes to bloom into a superstar in their chosen field, whether it be in sports, arts, academia, or any other field. The road to the top is full of challenges, where survival is strictly for the fittest, and one has to make sacrifices, work hard and defy the odds to emerge a winner. Nonetheless, the actual work begins when you hit the top. Once the spotlight shines on you and the whole crowd is chanting your name, this is the most defining moment where real champions emerge while other promising talents fade to oblivion.
Although many people can be very motivated when broke and largely unknown in their profession, the cards seem to shift significantly when fame, fortune, and status come calling. Golf has seen countless outstanding talents emerge on the course, but sadly, few have managed to remain consistently at the top and achieve legendary status in the sport despite their promising golf careers. Some golfers have fallen victim to unfortunate ailments, accidents, and untimely deaths. Others have succumbed to poor habits like alcohol and substance abuse, gambling, and financial indiscipline.
Below we look at six promising golf careers that ended prematurely:
- Tony Lema: Any avid golf fan in the 1960s must fondly remember Tony Lema for his unmatched prowess. The PGA Tour star recorded 12 big wins between 1962 and 1966, including winning the 1964 British Open, where he wowed the media fraternity by having champagne delivered to the media room and effectively earning the nickname “Champagne Tony.” As fate had it, the Firestone Country Club would be his last course to grace for the 1966 PGA Championship because a plane he chartered to ferry him from the event crashed, taking his life and promising career at only 32 years.
- John McDermott: Although the U.S Open has risen to become one of the most popular golf tournaments in the world, not many golf lovers know who was the first American to win the coveted Open. His name is John McDermott. After 16 years of foreigners dominating the tournament, a young McDermott scooped the title in 1912 to become its youngest winner. The supercharged John also successfully defended his title the following year in 1913, and it seemed he was born to be a legend. Sadly, his career took an unprecedented detour marked by bad investments in the stock market and depression that led him to be committed to an asylum in 1916, where he would stay for many decades after that.
- Heather Farr: Heather Farr was a spectacular up-and-coming golfing talent in her home state of Arizona, where she was a 3-time high school champion. The amateur golfer continued to shine, winning the U.S. Girls Junior Championship in 1982 and the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in 1984. Heather also was part of Team USA in 1984’s Curtis Cup, going pro soon after in 1985 and recording a good career projectile. Unfortunately, Farr was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989 at age 24 and, after countless operations and treatment, passed on aged 28 in 1993.
- Ty Tryon: North Carolina golfer Ty Tryon was the ultimate boy wonder when he made his first PGA Tour cut aged 16 years, adding another a few months later at age 17. When Ty went pro in 2001, the spotlight shifted on him, with tabloids labeling him as the next big thing and investors splashing the teenager with endorsements worth over $8 million. Unfortunately, the youngster had never tasted what it means to go on a full tour competing with the best in the game, and in 2002, the lad missed six out of seven cuts. 2003 proved even harsher, with Tryon only making four cuts in 21 events. By age 20, Ty was done and dusted, and although he tried to regain glory in later years, he never quite managed to get his swagger back.
- Erica Blasberg: During her stint at the University of Arizona, Erica Blasberg was considered the next “it girl” in golf, drawing attention for her California-girl looks and, most importantly, her raw, unmatched talent. In the two seasons between 2003-2004, she won Freshman of the Year, six NCAA tournaments, an All-American Award, and was also part of Team USA at the 2004 Curtis Cup. The future certainly seemed cut out for Erica as she turned pro in 2004. As fate would have it, the big league would turn out to be a curse disguised as a blessing for the sensational golfer, who quickly sank into depression and began deteriorating in her much-awaited career. Sadly, Blasberg took her own life in May 2010 at 25.
- John Daly: The 1991 PGA Championship offered the perfect breakout moment for John Daly, who came in as a ninth alternate but surprised many with the witty golf skills that saw him carry the Wanamaker Trophy. The triumph made Daly an instant hit within the golf community. Although he scored four more wins on the PGA Tour, including a 1995 Open Championship major, life in the spotlight proved too challenging to handle. Severe problems with alcohol and gambling coupled with several contentious divorces saw Daly lose over $50 million, and his promising career took a permanent dip.
The above promising golf careers that met a premature ending show that the future is not guaranteed. One can only work hard and put in their best effort, avoiding bad habits that might endanger one’s chances in the big league. Nonetheless, the golf community will always cherish every golfer who worked hard and shone at any point in life.