Beaufort News

Gainey's bid for dream ending at Heritage just misses

Tommy Gainey
Tommy Gainey Jay Karr -- The Island Packet

It was a scene pulled from a too-good-to-be-true TV movie.

Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey strolled to the 18th green at Harbour Town Golf Links, a 15-foot birdie putt awaiting him -- a putt that would have sent him to the clubhouse with a share of the lead -- and a chance to become the first South Carolina golfer to win the Heritage in his home state.

Gainey paused before walking onto the green and tipped his cap. As the crowd showered him with applause, he gave it right back, thanking the fans who had spurred him along all week.

But the thing about scenes that seem too good to be true is, well, they're often too good to be true.

Gainey's putt charged past the hole. It never really had a chance.

And with Brandt Snedeker already in the clubhouse -- heck, he had been there for 75 minutes by that time -- Gainey's shot at history was over.

The storybook ending reached the end of the road.

"I would have loved to have won," Gainey said. "I think this golf tournament is unbelievable. I think it's the second-best tournament on the tour, and I think everybody would agree that No. 1 would be Augusta."

The thought of Gainey winning this tournament seemed almost absurd -- this is a guy who was working on an assembly line wrapping insulation around water heaters just a few years ago, and he had to chase down defending champion Jim Furyk and 54-hole leader Luke Donald, who was shooting for the world's No. 1 ranking.

And it seemed the dream was dead when Gainey bogeyed two of his first three holes to slip to 6-under par, five shots off the lead.

Nice try, kid. Better luck next time.

"I was a little steamed," Gainey said. "I was steaming pretty good, needless to say."

He blew off some of that steam and got back both shots with an eagle at the par-5 fifth hole, then made birdies at Nos. 8, 12 and 15 to climb back into contention.

A par save at the 16th, where his punched approach from beneath a tree wound up behind the green, kept the dream alive, but his birdie bid at No. 17 came up short.

So there Gainey was, walking to the 18th green, one putt to grab a share of the lead.

It missed.

Gainey ripped his hat from his head and started to slam it to the ground, but he stopped himself and rolled in his par putt.

Then he took off that cap one more time, and bowed to the crowd. He was unable to deliver the ending so many fans craved, but he couldn't have come so close without them.

"The fans have been unreal, unbelievable," Gainey said. "I can say all the big words you want to hear, but it's been awesome to be here this week, and it's even better to play well in front of them, in front of the home folks for me.

"I just want to tip my cap to them for keeping me in it and keeping me positive. I really appreciate that."