DUBLIN, Ohio - The tournament official in a green blazer standing guard outside the clubhouse at Muirfield Village can be excused for not recognizing the guy trying to get through the front door.
Boo Weekley does not look like he belongs among the elite in golf.
A paunch falls over his belt line and works like gravity, pulling him forward with each choppy step. Snuff juts out of his lower lip, tobacco stains mark the corners of his mouth. His cotton pants gather at the ankles. And he speaks not with a sense of entitlement, but with consideration, even during such moments of inconvenience.
“Excuse me, sir,” he said, fumbling to find his badge, “I’m a PGA Tour player.”
Weekley has a hard time getting that message across to lots of folks.
It is easy to overlook his two PGA Tour victories, both at the MCI Heritage at Hilton Head, because of a twang so country that words like “reckon” and “ain’t” are used far more frequently than birdies and bogeys.
He charmed the press at Carnoustie last year with tales of how Scottish food ain’t nothing like the fried chicken and buckets of sweet tea that his momma makes back home in the Florida Panhandle. But then, Weekley skipped Thanksgiving dinner to go to China with childhood pal Heath Slocum for the World Cup. They lost in a playoff, the best showing by an American team in five years.
Weekley was perplexed when his opponent picked up a ball inches from the cup at the Accenture Match Play Championship, unaware that players routinely concede putts. But that’s no misprint in the Ryder Cup standings. Weekley is at No. 6, and captain Paul Azinger expects him to be part of the U.S. team in September.
Ask any of his peers about Weekley and they grin. But the first mention is always his golf.
“I was warming up right in front of him, and you could hear how clean he hits the ball,” Tiger Woods said at Doral.
“He’s one hell of a player,” Mark Calcavecchia said after two rounds with him at the Memorial. “Makes you wonder how he could beat it around the bushes so long on the Nationwide Tour without getting out here any sooner.”
Brandt Snedeker is one of his best friends on tour, a couple of Southern boys who met in the minor leagues.
“You get lost in this simpleton role he tries to play,” Snedeker said. “People don’t give him enough credit for being a talented golfer. He’s probably one of the top three or four ball-strikers out here.”
To hear these comments is as pleasing to Weekley as spending the morning in a tree stand with a rifle slung over his shoulder.
“I’m a golfer,” Weekley said. “And I take a lot of pride in it.”
For all the homespun charm, Boo can play.
He figures to be among the contenders for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, because while his personality belongs more on “The Andy Griffith Show” than The Golf Channel, he continues to impress with his golf clubs.
“It took me time to realize that I actually belong out here,” Weekley said, a cold beer in hand as he sat at his locker. “I go about it different than the rest of ’em. But I do belong.”
Weekley has always done things differently.
There were golf clubs around the house when he was a kid, and tiny Milton, Fla., had its share of good players. Weekley played on the same high school team as Slocum, another two-time winner on tour, and big-hitting Bubba Watson was a few years behind them.
“I started getting serious about golf when I was 13, getting ready to go into high school,” Weekley said. “The whole time between that, I might have played 10 times in my life. I ain’t talking about playing no golf, I’m talking about hitting balls in the pasture.”
His first score over 18 holes? Well, there are two of them.
Weekley first played golf left-handed and shot something in the low 90s, best he can recall. Clubs were hard to find, so he was persuaded to try swinging from the right side.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
“Three of the first 10 balls, I about killed people on the range,” Weekley said. “This guy teaching me said, ’Nah, this ain’t gonna work.’ I teed up the driver and smoked one, and he looked at me and said, ’Hold on.’ I reckon I was what you would call a driving range pro. I never played right-handed for three or four months. All I did was hit balls. The first time I played, I shot 83.”
Not many PGA Tour players can say they went to Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College (Weekley refers to it at as ABAC, saying it as if the acronym were as common as UCLA).
Some of golf’s late bloomers worked in a pizza joint (Tim Petrovic), a bank (Woody Austin) or a cake factory in England (Graeme Storm). Weekley was a hydroblaster at a Monsanto chemical plant, donning a Kevlar suit and rain gear before stepping into a tank that was 120 degrees, using a high-pressure washer to clean ammonia residue out of 3,562 holes the size of a half dollar.
“Trust me, I counted ’em,” Weekley said.
When he first earned his PGA Tour card at Q-school in 2001, the Golf Channel dropped over for an interview. Weekley looked into the camera and said, ’Hey, everybody!”’
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