Boo Weekley finally found his way back to the prominence he experienced five years ago when he notched his first two wins on the PGA Tour, the 2007 and 2008 Heritage Classic at Harbour Town in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
It’s been a time of physical problems, sketchy putting and the resultant drain in confidence. This was a man who was once a star on the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team; the one who straddled his driver and rode it off the first tee like a horse…to the continuing delight off fans who have fallen for this man.
If you haven’t seen him play in person, you haven’t seen him play. I remember two things about him the couple of times I’ve watched him. First, there is an efficient, economy of motion that delivers the club to the ball with that unmistakeable sound of the ball being solidly compressed into the ground. And second, a second shot into the par 5 3rd hole at Phoenix. The pin was on the front tier of the long green and the shot had a penetrating ball flight that never left the safest part of the tier, every bit of that shot intentional. It was inspiring.
He had that kind of control in Sunday’s winning final round at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. Actually, he had that kind of control all week shooting, 67, 67, 66, 66, on the par-70, classic course. And he had to overcome a lot over these years to put himself in position to win:
Getting to this point has been the confidence. The mental side of it I always am struggling with that, you know. You got to believe in what you’re doing, what you are working on. But over the last, I don’t know, beginning this year, we changed some things up, or didn’t change anything. We just made things better with my swing. I started getting a little more healthier, my shoulder started feeling better.
We broke down my putting a little bit and kind of went through some putting stats and went through some stuff that would help me. Scott Hamilton, in Cartersville, he’s got like a little [stat] lab, and we went through it and realized where my faults was and we made it better. It was just a matter of time. I really believe if I can keep this emotion going I feel like I can probably do it again this year.
It is hard to imagine that someone this accomplished was having such a hard time with his sense of himself as a player. His swing is so pure and natural, it looks like he never has to practice. What could ever go wrong? It just goes to show you how vulnerable even the best can be.
One of the other things that helped him sort himself out was the support of his fans, whether he was playing good or bad, and the tournament staff and volunteers:
Oh, yes. Any time you hear your name, especially when you are playing good, it’s fun. When you are playing bad, you don’t want to hear it. Why are you hollering my name right now, dude, I’m like 10 over. It’s still fun having the fans pull for you and not just the fans but a lot of the people that are a part of this tournament that are pulling for you. Over the years I have become friends with them. It means a lot.
He kept his head down and didn’t look at a leaderboard until the 13th hole. It was just as well because six holes ahead of him, Scott Stallings was lighting it up. He was 6-under on the front and confidently looking to go lower until he ran headlong into a double bogey on the 15th hole. Had Weekley been watching Stallings leaping up the board, it might have proved a little distracting. But by the time Weekley looked, Stallings arc was complete and he was no longer a threat.
I haven’t seen a board until I got to hole 13. That’s when I realized, wow, here I go, I need to do something. Either hold on to [my lead] or try to make a couple of more birdies just to kind of lock it up. I kind of gave myself the opportunity.
Because he was hitting the ball so well, he decided not to hold on, but rather to make sure that he missed his shots in the right place, places that would give him good salvage opportunities. Not holding on, but smart.
He also concentrated on hitting his putting spots; he found that he was putting so well that if he just hit his spots, they would all be in or close. And it worked. He made pars all the way to the house and beat Matt Kuchar by one and Defending Champion, Zach Johnson, by two.
One of the reasons Boo Weekley has so endeared himself to the media and the public is because of his good cheer. A media guy asked him how he came to choose golf as a career? Did he come to some sort of crossroads where he had to choose between med school and golf?
I know you are joking when you said med school with me. No, I worked at a chemical plant, you know, when I got out of the college. I only went one year, and I dropped out of the college and went to a chemical plant and worked there for three years and then Heath Slocum, or his dad, Jack Slocum, started a mini tour around the house there and there was already a mini Tour going around there called Emerald Coast Tour.
They caught me playing. I was like a weekend warrior, I reckon is what you call it. I kind of went out and played and won. I kind of called my mom, I said, momma, I think I might have found something else to do beside going to the plant every morning at 6 and clocking in. So we tried it and one thing lead to another and I am right here in front of you holding this mic.
One of the other nice things to come out of Sunday’s media session was his repudiation or change of heart on how long he was going to play the game. It was after he had become a fixture on the Tour when he said that he was only going to play golf until he had enough money to spend the rest of his life hunting and fishing to his heart’s content. And so there was always a ticking time bomb in terms of how much longer we were going to be able to watch his talent.
And out of nowhere, somebody asked him Sunday if that had crossed his mind:
It’s crossed a lot. But I can fish and still play golf. Maybe down the road, you know. Right now I am still enjoying the game. Just like I told my caddy on 1, these butterflies feel good. It feels good to actually have them again knowing that I’m in this opportunity to maybe to win this thing. I might have shot 80 today but I didn’t. It was my time to win. I told him it is just a funny feeling that you finally get to feel. It kind of gave me some more energy of what I want to do with my life and where I want to go.
All across the Boo Weekley fan land, a big sigh of relief. With this refined set of plans, two things: (1) we no longer have to worry that the last we’d suddenly see of him was his camouflaged hunting wear disappearing into the forests of his beloved Florida panhandle, and (2) he is now thinking seriously about how he wants his life to play out.
Good for him and good for us.