When avid gambler, recovering alcoholic and thrice-married John
Daly won the British Open last July at St. Andrews, you could
almost hear some members of the R&A groan. Such noises could be
heard again three weeks ago at Turnberry when similarly
rough-hewn Warren Bladon won Great Britain's second-most
prestigious championship, the British Amateur.
Like Daly, Bladon, 30, is no blue blood. Taking up golf at 14,
he taught himself the game on public courses in Warwickshire and
by 19 was a scratch player. After leaving school at 16, Bladon
set out to become a pro but encountered several stumbling
blocks. One was a distaste for practice, which he calls "a
wicked bore." Another was his lifestyle. Bladon was suspended
from the Leamington golf club in 1989 after a drinking incident.
"Buddies and I, we got a bit too drunk, a little rowdy one
night," says Bladon. "The club got wind of that, and it didn't
sit well with them." In 1992 Bladon was arrested for drunken
Bladon worked odd jobs--primarily as a salesman--to support
himself, and from 1990 to '94 he seldom played golf because he
couldn't afford green fees. Then this spring, after working for
a year in a pub, the Cork & Bottle in Birmingham, England,
Bladon decided to give the game one more try. "Standing on the
other side of the bar was a rude awakening," he says. "I saw how
people throw away their lives to the bottle. I saw how my lax
attitude toward golf, toward life, had been a waste."
For winning the Amateur, Bladon received an exemption into next
week's British Open and the 1997 Masters and will probably get
invited to a few European tour events as well. Bladon wants to
remain an amateur through the fall of 1997 to stay eligible for
the Walker Cup, after which he might turn pro. "It's taken me
longer than most to get my break," he says. "It's hard, in golf,
coming from the other side of the tracks. But it's given me a
killer instinct, which, finally, I'm learning how to use."
DAVID CANNON/ALLSPORT After a year spent working in a pub, Bladon decided not to let his life or his golf talent go to waste. [Warren Bladon]