For generations, professional golfers have looked about as fit as your local barfly. The legendary John Daly, for instance, is as known for his potbelly and penchant for Marlboro reds as he is for his swing.
“Without disrespecting anybody, it was about guys with the big 44-inch bellies and they had concave chests with no muscle,” Joey Diovisalvi, a Jupiter, Fla.-based strength and conditioning coach who works with top golfers Dustin Johnson, 34, and Brooks Koepka, 28, tells The Post.
“In the past, the guys smoked cigars, they drank in the parking lot and smoked cigarettes throughout the round. They literally never warmed up,” says Diovisalvi, who goes by “Joey D.” “Athleticism is not something that played into this traditional game.”
But when the pros take to the course at Augusta National on Thursday for The Masters, many of them will be chiseled, well-oiled muscle machines who follow strict diets and put just as many hours in at the gym as they do at the driving range. Johnson and Koepka, for example, train in the gym with Diovisalvi for 90 minutes, six days a week. They supplement those sessions with six additional hours a week biking, paddle boarding, running or swimming. Their hard-hitting style and ripped frames (including Koepka’s brawny arms and Johnson’s sinewy torso) have earned them the nickname the “Bash Brothers” and made them emblematic of the modern golf body.
Diovisalvi, a New Jersey native, has become an evangelist for physical fitness in golf after training under doctors who studied sports biomechanics. The 53-year-old has spent the last two decades trying to convince players that focusing on fitness and body mechanics will benefit, not hurt, their game — especially their golf swing.
In the early 2000s, Diovisalvi approached tour professionals with his fitness gospel, which combines golf science with focused strength moves to build a powerful and efficient body. “I would hear this: ‘If you get too muscular, you get slower,’ ” says Diovisalvi.
Through the years, there have been outliers to the plump putter stereotype. Diovisalvi acknowledges that the now-83-year-old Gary Player, who won three Masters in the ’60s and ’70s, was the father of fitness in the sport — and even posed naked for ESPN’s Body Issue in 2013. And when Tiger Woods came on the scene in the mid ’90s, his staggering talent and hard-won physique started chipping away at conventional tenets. In 2010, Vanity Fair printed an unearthed 2006 photo of a shirtless, serious-looking Woods curling two dumbbells next to his hard abs on the mag’s cover.
“Tiger moved the needle at the greatest level I’ve ever seen, to this day. He became so dominant, and then he took fitness to a whole other level himself,” says Diovisalvi. “And then the world goes, ‘Holy crap. It’s OK to train for golf.’ ”
Diovisalvi enjoyed some renown for his method when his Fijian golfer client, Vijay Singh, reached No. 1 in 2004. Then, in 2010, he solidified his guru status after penning the book “Fix Your Body, Fix Your Swing.” He became a regular on the Golf Channel creating fitness videos for sports enthusiasts. In 2010, he began working with Johnson, who became the world’s No. 1 golfer in 2017 and remained there for 64 consecutive weeks.
Joey D. now operates a facility in Jupiter — a 10,000-foot golfer’s paradise with training areas and golf-specific technology — where he and his team train upward of 16 PGA golfers, including Justin Thomas (currently ranked No. 5 in the world), and eight LPGA golfers. And it’s not just the elite ranks who are regulars there. Amateur and junior players also seek out his program. Diovisalvi says recreational golfers come from as far away as South America to take sessions with his team of trainers and biomechanics coaches.
Diovisalvi — who works out alongside his top two clients — says that thanks to his method, “They have better balance, better joint mobility and better muscle and body awareness. They are going to hit the ball farther by nature because they can lengthen their backswing so there is more power — like a slingshot.”
Beyond refining the swing, fitness allows the golfer to control one variable in a game of many.
“On any given day, you never know who is going to win a golf tournament. Hard work outworks talent when talent doesn’t show up. Having better endurance and being more body-aware gives you that edge,” he says.
It’s worth noting that neither Johnson nor Koepka are following Daly to the Augusta Hooters — where Daly traditionally sets up shop to meet fans during The Masters.
Both follow strict diets. Johnson — who told Golf Magazine that he doesn’t even take a “cheat day” — flies a private chef to many tournaments.
According to GQ, Johnson sups on quinoa, veggies and chicken or fish, and eats an almond-butter-and-jelly sandwich before hitting the course. “If you eat really healthy, and then go out and eat s–t ty food, you actually feel awful. It’s amazing the difference between eating super healthy and not, and how much better you feel,” he said.
And even at tournaments, there are massive trailers housing mobile fitness centers that players actually use. It’s a complete culture shift that makes Diovisalvi proud.
“You look at an Adam Scott, Jason Day, Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Tiger. These guys could play any sport they want to; baseball, primarily. Dustin could have played any sport,” he says. “It’s like Dustin’s favorite saying: ‘Bro, you can’t beat me anyway. And if you’re not in the gym, you’re going to beat me never.’ ”