Beaufort News

Another 'redneck' has Heritage fans hootin' and hollerin'

Some two or three years ago -- Tommy Gainey doesn't exactly remember -- Boo Weekley approached the Bishopville native after a round of golf and offered his version of a compliment.

"I'm glad to see you out here," Gainey recalls Weekley saying, "because we need another redneck out here."

Gainey refers to himself as "just a good ol' country boy" and laughs as he shares the story. There's no denying his personality is following in the footsteps of Weekley.

He hopes to fill even bigger shoe prints today on the course that made Boo Weekley a household name on Hilton Head Island and across most of the country.

Gainey shot 4-under par for the second consecutive day to climb a crowded leaderboard and move into a tie for fifth place at 8 under heading into today's final round of the 43rd annual Heritage, a tournament Weekley won in 2007 and 2008. After the best two rounds in his short career at Harbour Town Golf Links, Gainey sits three shots back of leader Luke Donald, who stands alone at 11-under par.

"Being home, and you can play good at the same time, it doesn't get any better," said Gainey, who lives in Camden.

The fans at Harbour Town backed him like one of their own -- much like they did for Weekley in his two victories.

Gainey's shot of the day came on the final hole, where he chipped in a 35-foot shot from the front bunker for a birdie, his sixth of the day and 15th of the tournament. Gainey let his emotions show with a fist pump as the ball fell into the hole.

The fans followed suit, chanting "Tommy!" as he walked off the course and into the scoring tent.

"You can definitely feed off the fans," said Gainey, who will try to become the first golfer from South Carolina to win the Heritage. "You make a couple of birdies, and you get the fans pumped up. I get pumped up right along with them."

Gainey has toyed with his own emotions for three days, enjoying 15 birdies but mixing in seven bogeys. He bogeyed No. 2 on Saturday, a hole he birdied Thursday and Friday, to fall back to 3 under for the tournament, but he birdied five of the next 10 holes to squeeze into contention for the first time in three trips to the Heritage.

It continues a successful streak for Gainey, who has made cuts in nine of the past 11 events, this after spending last season flopping back and forth between PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour events. No matter the outcome today, Gainey will top his highest single-year earnings on the PGA Tour, though he remains winless on the PGA Tour in his career.

He first turned professional in 1998, and is well-known as the first player to earn a PGA Tour card via "Big Break," a Golf Channel reality series.

With another quality round today, the first big break of his PGA Tour career may become a legitimate possibility.

"I'm going to stay in my game," Gainey said. "My game is aggressive, and backing off when I need to back off. But I'm going to do the same thing I've been doing."