by Jeff Skinner
It reads like a Hollywood script: an unknown golfer with a homemade swing and a catchy nickname comes from nowhere to do battle with the best golfers in the world. Only this time it wasn’t a movie and the leading man didn’t miss his chance at a life changing victory.
Unlike Roy McAvoy in Tin Cup, Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey shot the round of his life on Sunday to win his first PGA Tour event at the McGladrey Classic.
Gainey shot a course record and a personal best 60 over the Seaside Course at Sea Island, Georgia to come from seven shots off the lead to reach the pinnacle of his professional career. Gainey had to overtake a pair of seasoned veterans as host Davis Love III and his pal Jim Furyk started the day tied for the lead at -13. With Gainey at a distant -6 any chance at winning was a very, very long shot.
But Tommy Two Gloves’ entire professional career has been a long shot. After turning pro in 1997 he spent years playing the mini tours and earning money on the golf course the old fashioned way. The South Carolina native became a mini tour legend in the south and had the good fortune to make his way onto the Golf Channel’s Big Break not once but twice. He won his last appearance on the Big Break and in doing so became a bit of a cult hero.
After joining the PGA Tour in 2008 Gainey’s contorted swing and southern charm garnered him an even bigger following and he quickly became a fan favorite. He lost his card in 2010 and spent that year on the Web.com Tour but earned his way back to the big leagues in 2011 and won an impressive $2.1 million finishing 30th on the money list.
But 2012 had been a difficult year for Gainey with injuries affecting him early on. In his first 18 tournaments this year he missed nine cuts and withdrew twice. But as he got healthier he made more cuts and on Sunday he rode his hot putter to the winner’s circle. Click here for the recap.
After going out in 31 the talk of a possible 59 started but Gainey stayed focused, “I wasn’t thinking about 59,” Gainey said. “See, all I did all day was just try to make birdies – and a lot of birdies – because when you’re seven shots back, your chances of winning a PGA tournament with the leaders, Davis Love III and Jim Furyk … it don’t bide in your favor, man. I’m in this position, and man, it feels like I’m in a dream. I’m just waiting for somebody to slap me upside the head or pinch me or something to wake me up.”
After he signed for his 60 he still had over two hours to kill while the leaders made their moves at him. But Love rinsed a ball and Furyk made a few poor swings coming down the stretch. David Toms was the real threat to Gainey as he birdied four holes late in the round and only needed a birdie on the last to tie Two Gloves. But an errant drive foiled his chances.
Gainey was on the range when Love and Furyk finished and couldn’t believe that he had held on to win. “You got future Hall of Famers chasing me – chasing ME now,” he said. “I’m Tommy Gainey. I’m `Two Gloves.’ I shot 60 today and you got Jim Furyk, Davis Love III and David Toms chasing me. I mean, I was nervous. … I was paying attention, and you know, it just worked out for me.”
“Oh, man,” Gainey said. “I tell you, you’re out here on the PGA Tour. You’re playing with the best players in the world. Ninety-nine percent of these guys have already won, and won majors, big tournaments. The only show I can say I’ve won is the `Big Break.’ Now I can sit here and say I’ve won the McGladrey Classic here at Sea Island, and I’m very proud to be in this tournament and very proud to win. And wow, it’s been a whirlwind day.
“I didn’t know having 24 putts and shooting 60 would be like this,” he said. “So I’m pretty stoked about it.”
Tommy Two Gloves Gainey and his unorthodox swing will never be confused with the likes of Phil and Tiger or Rory but there’s something special about this guy. Maybe it is his swing that looks more like ours than it does Adam Scott’s. Or maybe it’s the fact that he makes the most out of the talent that he has with hard work and determination. Or it could be his soft-spoken southern, gentlemanly way he carries himself. Maybe it’s his graciousness and his humility. Or maybe it’s the joy we get watching a “regular guy” reach heights beyond his grasp and realize his dream. Yea, that’s it…all of it. There’s a lot to like about Two Gloves and his nickname is only a small part of it.