When he walks down the fairway, there is such joy in his step that the gallery can't help but notice. Someone will ask, "Who is that?", and a marshal will respond, "Mac O'Grady."
Good question. Mac O'Grady was 101st on the Professional Golf Association's money list last year, winning $50,379. There may have been a hundred better golfers on the tour, but none of them had a better story than Mac O'Grady.
For one thing, he has two names, Mac O'Grady and Phillip McGleno. And with each name comes a different persona, a front side and a back side, so to speak. The Mac O'Grady known to most of his fellow touring pros is an irrepressible zany, one of golf's so-called Space Cadets. In fact, he has drafted a letter to NASA, volunteering his services to the space program. He wanted the '84 PGA media guide to list his special interest as molecular biology, but his request was made too late.
O'Grady is a switch hitter, and he has applied to the USGA for amateur status as a lefthander. He has also taken applications from convicts all over the country who would like to be his caddie. Minnesota-born Mac speaks in a language, and in an accent, all his own—a wedge shot isn't just a wedge shot, but "a bird flying to the firmaments, outlined against an incandescent sky, beginning to fall, gently sashaying back to the earth." Crazy? Why, he went through the PGA qualifying school 17 times beginning in 1971 before finally winning his touring card in November of 1982.
But then there's Phil McGleno, who lived through a nightmare to chase his dream. Along the way, he found love and hate and friendship, shuttled between California, Texas, Florida, everywhere in Greyhound buses, devoured all manner of books, lived in a storage box in a garage, worked at the oddest of jobs, read more books and finally changed his name. Persistent? Well, one 72-to-144-hole qualifying tournament is an ordeal. The thought of enduring 17 of them in 12 years boggles the mind.
So there were tears in his eyes as he walked down the 18th fairway of the Tournament Players Club course on Nov. 21, 1982, the last day of his last qualifying school. Phil McGleno had finally caught up with his dream. As he wrote in his journal that night, "A philosopher once stated, 'Your happiness in Life is measured by how deep sorrow has cut within you.' At this moment, we [he and his wife, Fumiko] are the happiest people in the universe. God bless those who move mountains."
There are all sorts of pleasures to be had in listening to O'Grady's husky voice. "Anytime you talk to him, you'll hear three words you never heard before," says fellow pro Mike Nicolette. O'Grady is liable to babble on, hooking words out of bounds, slicing the language into the trees, but he says things with such abandon that he will stop every once in a while to laugh at himself.
"It's that high-pitched laugh that gets me," says Bill Kratzert, another pro. "Even when I can't understand what he's saying, I'll laugh at the laugh." O'Grady also speaks with a lilt that comes from some undiscovered land. But this is understandable, given that his wife is Japanese, his friends could form their own United Nations, and the man who supported him through many lean years is called Raphael Shapiro, which isn't the name he was born with.
Just watching O'Grady can be a treat. It's not that he's handsome—his cheeks are drawn and his nose is pinched—but rather it's the way he carries himself. He is so full of energy that he literally runs from point to point. At 32, he's in such good shape that many golfers consider him to be the best-conditioned athlete on the tour. He neither smokes nor drinks.