‘Two Gloves’ still looking for first ‘Big Break’
THE two gloves worn by Tommy Gainey were on too tight.
Making his first appearance as a full-fledged member of the PGA Tour, the "Big Break" boy from South Carolina thought he was ready for the big-city lights, but yesterday's 3-over 73 said otherwise.
Known simply as "Two Gloves" by those who have followed his amazing ascent from the backwaters of the Tar Heel Tour right through all three stages of the Q-school, Gainey made his first trip from Bishopville, S.C., to the 50th state to play in the Sony Open in Hawaii.
He wears two gloves at all times to handle his 10-finger baseball grip. This self-made man, who hangs over a golf ball like Snoopy when playing the vulture, may not have your standard address, but Bubba, when he hits it, it stays hit.
Often yesterday he outdrove playing partners Chez Reavie and Bryce Molder, but the Waialae Country Club greens about did him in. A good example was at the par-4 No. 8 where he three-putted from 6 feet en route to a double-bogey 6.
Gainey shook it off like a hound dog shedding fleas to birdie the last, but No. 8 still hung around as he signed his scorecard beside the par-5 ninth.
"I got two words to describe how I putted that green," he said in a Southern drawl better suited for Mayberry. "Brain dead."
Standing just off the No. 8 green after his second shot, Gainey chipped to within 6 feet for par. He stabbed at it, watched it lip out, ran over to it, sized up the 3-footer he had coming back for about 2 seconds, lipped it out again, before knocking in a 2-footer for double bogey. For most, that might have led to a meltdown.
But for this 32-year-old tour rookie, it was motivation.
"I guess I was a little nervous today," Gainey said. "One thing 'Big Break' taught me was how to deal with pressure and disappointment. I'm used to the camera. I just didn't hit enough fairways and greens. But I'm here to tell you, I'm making the cut. You can write that down."
IT'S HARD not to like a guy who has spent much of his life being an ordinary citizen. Before finding his way from South Carolina to here, Gainey was an every-man doing every-man's work. He attended Central Carolina Technical College, where he learned to wrap insulation around water heater tanks for A.O. Smith at the water heater factory for a solid $8.75 an hour. Before that, he was a furniture mover.
Now, he has a caddy doing all the heavy lifting for him as he tries his hand as a full-time golfer. There was no doubt he had enough talent to make it at this level. He qualified for the prestigious Wachovia last spring at a local Monday tournament and two days later, he's hitting balls on the practice range right down from Tiger Woods.
He eventually missed the cut, but this good old boy got a taste of the high life and decided wrapping water heaters would have to wait. Golf was a lot better way to make a living.
"I like this job a lot better," Gainey said, then smiled. "The scenery around here is amazing. And I'll tell you what, you won't meet a bunch of nicer people than the ones right here in Hawaii. They make you feel right to home."
Now, if he could just feel the same way about Waialae.
"Then I'll be playing here this weekend," he said.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at email@example.com