April 30, 2008

Boo really is a good ol' boy

CHARLOTTE -- On Tuesday, I asked a friend of mine who has worked for the PGA Tour for a good while if this guy Boo Weekley was for real.

Weekley is the guy from Jay, Fla. Jay isn't Miami.

He and his wife are building a new home to replace -- and I'm not making this up -- the doublewide they've been living in with their six-year-old son, Thomas Parker. The Weekley's are expecting another child the first of July.

Weekley claims the only thing he'd rather do than hunt is fish and that both are preferable to golf. It's just that he can earn a little more cash making birdies than shooting them.

He once said that "as a kid, I wasn't thinking about no golf."

He wasn't, like most kids, thinking about no correct English either. Still don't.

He's got that touch of hick in his voice, a smile that lights a room and that "yes sir, yes ma'am" answer to most every question, whether you're younger or older than he is.

I thought, this guy can't be real.

My friend told me she used to think the same thing, but found out quickly that Thomas Trent "Boo" Weekley is what he is.

I found that out, too, on Tuesday afternoon, when Weekley stopped by the media room for an interview, two days before the start of the Wachovia Championship.

Weekley was sporting his camo cap. It did have a Cleveland Golf logo. It did not have one of those big fish hooks clipped to the brim, but I'd bet my last golf shirt there's one back at the doublewide.

Weekley had just come -- not from the practice tee or the putting green -- but from Lowe's Motor Speedway. He and a handful of other golfers had gone over to jump behind the wheel of real race car.

"I went and drove them NASCARs, them speed cars," Weekley said, smiling like he'd just caught a mess of crappie. "It was awesome If you ain't never done it, you need to try."

How fast, Boo?

"First session I went like 138, 134, something like that. Second got it up close to 150. It was very exciting and very tense. I've got a new perspective of how them guys go about the driving."

Weekley was asked if it was the speed or the turns.

"The whole thing," he said. "You got a vehicle that's more expensive than what I own at the house, everything."

The room rolls in laughter.

"You know," he continued, "if you pile that thang up in the wall, you cain't just say, hey, I'm sorry. It was kinda nerve wracking."

The thing that made it even better was that it was one of Dale, Jr.'s, old cars. A No. 8. Dale, Jr., of course, is Weekley's favorite driver.

Weekley said it wasn't the first time he'd driven that fast.

"I'd say close to 130, 140," he dead panned, "but I did that on the Interstate. Interstate-10."

Boo Weekley for real? Believe it.

In the world of golf shirts and sweater vests and plaid pants, Weekley is a flannel shirt. He's got a little spare beef around his middle. He doesn't seem to mind if his shirt is a little wrinkled. And he plays in rain pants because he's got a cotton allergy.

And the nickname. Boo. His father gave him that from the cartoon Yogi Bear who's sidekick was "Boo Boo."

He looks like the guy who should be carrying the bag, not pulling clubs from it.

And maybe that's why he's become such a crowd favorite.

"Boooooooooooo" can be heard around courses these days and will be heard this week at Quail Hollow.

Weekley has said he doesn't think he'd be "as big a hit as Thomas Weekley."

He's John Daly without the beer and cigarettes and all the other baggage of self destruction. While plenty of people in the gallery could always identify with Daly, more can probably look at Boo Weekley and say "I know him."

He looks a lot like the guys standing on the outside of the ropes. Weekley loves interacting with the fans, frequently talks to them while he's playing, loves being near the galleries.

"They pay the bills, or a lot of 'em," he said. "In respect, you oughta just smile and wave whether you want to or not. I Iike to go and talk to people and my personality fits in either on the other side of the rope or inside the rope. It really don't matter to me."

And then, he's poking fun at himself.

"Way I been driving it," he said, "I've been on the outside of the ropes a lot lately."

But the corn pone character belies a golf game that's as dependable as tossing a popping bug at a bunch of hungry bream. The swing is smooth, the short game solid. And he thinks his away around a golf course a lot better than he might let on.

This guy might sound like a redneck, but his game's big city.

He lost his Tour card in 2002 and had to go back to the Nationwide Tour. He made it back to the PGA Tour last year and took home $2.6 million, more than enough to buy shotgun shells and some good top-water lures.

He's won twice at The Heritage on Hilton Head Island, including two weeks ago. He took last week off at home with his wife and son.

"Didn't do no sleepin'," he said. "We did too much playin'. I do my sleepin' on the road."

He said the last couple of weeks have been hectic since the win, with more and more people calling to wish him well.

He was asked if he now has two tartan jackets, the uglier prize of those awarded to the winner of The Heritage. He thinks he'll get one jacket for both wins. He took the first one home.

"I'll get the next one next year, I think," he said.

Then he thought about Davis Love who's won five times at Hilton Head.

"We're working on getting like Davis," Weekley said, eyes twinkling in the TV lights. "If you get about five of them, you could make one hell of a curtain or a table cloth."

You cain't be more real than that.

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