Carson Daly #PlayingForPops after death of his stepdad

Carson Daly points to the image of his stepdad on his golf ball. (Mike McAllister/PGATOUR.COM)

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Carson Daly, the defending amateur champ and the host of "The Voice" on NBC, is playing with a heavy heart at this week's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Daly's stepdad, Dick Caruso, passed away last October -- just five weeks after Daly's mother, Pattie Daly Caruso, died. It was Dick Caruso, the longtime member at Riviera Country Club, who helped generate Carson's interest in golf as a youngster.

When Carson made his first appearance at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2002, he was joined by his mother and stepdad who stayed with him at the Lodge at Pebble Beach. With each subsequent appearance, more of Carson's family members, including his brother and sister, made the trip to Pebble Beach to cheer on Carson.

"It's become a family event," he said.

Last year, Daly -- also a member of NBC's "Today" show -- and his PGA TOUR pro partner Ken Duke won the team portion of the event, giving the family a reason to celebrate that Sunday night.

This year, there are 30 family members in attendance, spread out over three rented houses in the area. Carson is leaning on his family this week as he plays for the first time without his parents.

But he's carrying Dick Caruso's memory with him inside the ropes. Daly has made pins with his stepdad's photo, and wears one on his cap. He also has his stepdad's image on his golf balls, with the hashtag #PlayingForPops.

"We bonded through golf and on the golf course," Carson said. "It's hard this year without him."

It definitely was a struggle on Thursday for the defending team champs. Duke and Daly combined to shoot 76 at Spyglass Hill, leaving the duo in last place -- by four strokes -- in the 156-team field. Duke shot a 7-over 79 on his own ball but Daly, a 9-handicapper, admitted his own performance was poor.

"I'm sort of glad he wasn't here to see it," said Daly, who'll try to make up ground in Friday's second round at Monterey Peninsula.

Daly did feel his stepdad's presence at Spyglass, but there was definitely a difference from the previous 15 starts he's made when Pops was in the gallery.

"Sometimes I'd see him in the corner and he'd give me a fist pump," Daly said. "I missed that today for sure."
 

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