Beaufort News

An open letter to Brian Gay

Dear, Brian,

Congratulations on your recent win at the 2009 Verizon Heritage. Your tournament record 20-under-par performance was without a doubt one of the best showings in Harbour Town history. You took advantage of perfect conditions for four days, playing in a zone few golfers can only even dream of entering. Your 10-stroke margin of victory was the largest on the PGA Tour in three years and the $1,026,000 you won was nearly $400,000 more than the check you received for winning the Mayakoba Golf Classic last year.

And while your record-setting performance may separate you from other Heritage winners in the record book, simply owning a tartan jacket lumps you in with a pretty prestigious group. We're talking about guys named Nicklaus, Palmer, Norman, Stewart and Love. That's some lofty company you've got there, a testament to how special your victory was.

And then, of course, there's this fella named "Boo." And that's kind of why I'm writing to you today.

Now I know you're still new to this defending champion thing. Why that Mayakoba win is only 14-months-old and it was your first tour win after you went 0-for-292 in career starts. You should be allowed a little grace period to get comfortable when someone calls you "defending champ."

But being the reigning winner in Mexico sure is different than being king of the course around here. It's not enough to simply show up for Monday's traditional opening ceremony or even the month before for the irregular appearance at Media Day. This community expects more.

Now don't start hyperventilating. We all know you're a restrained guy whose heartbeat can be measured with a sundial. Why one PGA Tour official even told me you declined to include not only the names of your two daughters, but your own birth date in the tour media guide. The only way a lot of people know you're married with children would probably be the contrived dash your wife and kids made onto the 18th green, a scene Amy Mickelson would likely have given a B-plus.

And your birthday? Afraid somebody might sing to you at the first tee or is it a Social Security issue?

The thought of having to go out away from the course and among the masses is probably making you sweat through your limegreen pants right now. Your mother, Margaret, even had a hard time explaining away your withdrawn personality.

"He opens up a little bit more when he's in his comfort zone, but he is pretty reserved," Margaret said. "He's a thinker, I guess you would say. He's very focused."

Focused, huh? OK, so take a deep breath and chant whatever it was you were chanting that put you into that victory-clinching zone and focus on this: Being the defending champ at Harbour Town is a special thing. It doesn't mean being Grand Marshal in a parade (Hilton Head, in my opinion, doesn't really do parades well) and you won't have to cut the ribbon the next time a Starbucks opens.

But accept this as much as the fact the sun rises in the East -- you will have to open up. The people in this community want to embrace their champion. They want to know more about him, what he likes and -- I know this is crazy -- what he thinks about things. They want to see him in and around Harbour Town at the same time every year. It's kind of the way family gets together at Christmas. You don't see each other the other 11 months, but it's all worth it come December.

For sure there have been a few blacksheep the folks around here probably would rather see lose their past champion's status (when's the last time someone pined for Glen Day?).And that's odd because this event -- as much as any other on tour -- loves its past champions, especially if they have a chance to repeat. The Spanish Moss can't muffle the roars on Sunday if the defending champ is in position to win. If you embrace them back they'll mention your name with a reverence for the rest of your career and you will always have a home in the Lowcountry.

If that winner is abrasive or, in your case, withdrawn, then forget it. You're still invited to Christmas dinner thanks to that tartan jacket, but don't expect to be in the will.

That's where that guy Boo comes into the picture.

I understand you're likely feeling a bit of pressure already. The truth is it would be unfair to compare his personality to yours or that of anyone else who plays for pay. Mr. Weekley is, to put it delicately, a unique case. And yet there's still a lesson to be learned from how he handled his duties as defending champion for the past two years. He was accessible, accommodating and -- more than anything -- honest.

Now we're not saying you have to start dipping and wearing camouflage. That's not you and that's perfectly fine. But what are you all about? You told us you lean toward wilder fashion, but only because you said something about a belt buckle in your post-win press conference (and, of course, those funky pants). And would you have ever 'fessed up about using Listerine to fend off the no-see-ums? Probably not.

We need you to relax and be comfortable in your own skin. The dark glasses certainly don't help, nor do the short, mumbled answers. You seem like a good guy with a great story to tell -- let's hear it.

And, dude, you're now a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. Relax and lighten up. Life for you has got to be pretty good nowadays. Besides, there are worse things than being the toast of Hilton Head.

You've got 12 months to gather yourself, Brian, and be the defending champion Hilton Head expects.

If you tackle it the way you tackled Harbour Town, then I think we could be in store for a beautiful relationship.

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