For most of us working stiffs, going on a corporate outing is like being fed intravenously: You never taste anything, but eventually you feel a kind of ghostly satiation. But if you're a golf nut, the chance to schmooze with a fairway legend can turn just another company retreat into something as memorable as your first eagle. Many pros make a tidy living by spending their Mondays and Tuesdays mixing businesspeople with the game of golf. The work is easy, the pay borders on the obscene. You blow into town in the morning, give a clinic and, in the afternoon, play a hole or two with each group. If the guest list is too big, you camp out at a par-3 and hit tee shots with every foursome that comes through. You wrap things up by mingling at a cocktail party and handing out booby prizes at a dinner, after which you regale people with tales of Arnold and Jack and Tiger. If you're a hit, everyone goes home inspired and maybe shaves a stroke or two off his handicap, thanks to your clinic. � The original King of Corporate Outings is Dave Stockton, winner of the 1970 and '76 PGA Championships. Before scaling back his schedule a decade ago, he used to appear at more than 90 outings in some years, reportedly earning in excess of $600,000 annually in ancillary loot. A sober speaker, Stockton expounds on the minutiae of the sport.
The reigning clown prince of the corporate grind is David Feherty, the gently subversive CBS golf commentator. His all-day deal features photo ops, benign dish on Tour players and an inexhaustible fund of gratuitous insults. "I basically get paid to be a smart-a-- show-off," says the onetime Ryder Cup player. "Golfers think that if I rip their game, it goes to a higher level. Well, maybe. It still looks pretty low to me." For such bunker sniping Feherty gets from $20,000 to $25,000 a day, plus expenses.
He plays about two dozen corporate gigs a year. "I'm really only a B-list celebrity," says the 46-year-old Irishman. "No one knows what I look like. I'm just a voice." A relaxed, unpretentious, word-caressing voice that flows over listeners like an eruption in a caramel factory. "You know why I like talking to corporate America?" he purrs. "It looks good on a parole application."
Early one recent morning Feherty left home, family and parole board behind in Dallas to attend an outing at the Golf Club of Amelia Island, in Florida. He'd been hired by a security outfit that manufactures MACE and body armor. In the baggage area at the Jacksonville airport Feherty's face is glazed with the unmistakable blankness that occurs when one week's company retreat blends with the previous week's. He's puzzled by the absence of a limo driver brandishing a sign with his name--or a semblance of it.
He ticks off about a dozen of the variations he has sighted in the mitts of limo drivers: FEHERITY, FERRITY, FEHRRITY, FLAHERTY, FLERITY. �"It gets closer and closer to O'Fleritty, the original Gaelic," he says. "I don't know how that transformed into Feherty--some ancestor must have married a Protestant or slept with a sheep."
Most business people who meet Feherty conclude, fairly quickly, that he is mad. "In reality, I'm not," he says. "In reality, I'm a miserable bastard, but people actually seem to enjoy that."
In truth, Feherty is friendly, approachable, a mischievous soul who delights in the company of others and in all things scatological. On this particular morning, standing on a putting green surrounded by 52 MACE-makers, he watches a hacker popcorn a tee shot into deep rough. "That drive was like a giraffe's a--," he says. "High and smelly."
He's wearing a short-sleeved shirt, green linen slacks and two-toned golf shoes. "Isn't this the sort of lovely morning that makes you glad to be alive?" asks Feherty. "The only way you could ruin a day like today is to play golf on it."
It's hard to imagine anyone disliking Feherty, but two years ago a woman did slug him at an outing in Wisconsin. "This lady took exception to me taking exception to Martha Burk's crusade against the men-only policy at Augusta," he says. "I told the lady I would have hit her back, but I didn't want my a-- kicked. She was not only bigger than me, but on the Anheuser side of Busch."
A doughy duffer asks, "Did the punch hurt your game?"