Tommy Gainey is the defending champion at this week’s McGladrey Classic in St. Simmons Island, Georgia. They’re playing at the Sea Island Golf Club on the Seaside Course which is a par 70 playing 7,005 yards. A shorter course, to be sure, but you get two fewer strokes to do it in.
The condition of the course is improving after a couple of weeks of rain, aided by some pretty strong winds:
Well, you know, I tell you, the conditions, the golf course is in excellent shape. I mean perfect. Fairways, a little soft here and there, but you know, it has rained a lot in the last three or four weeks, so that has a lot to do with it. But with the wind blowing 40 miles an hour the last couple of days, I think by tomorrow the fairways should be dried out pretty good.
I’m just hoping that the wind doesn’t blow like it did today the rest of this week. If so, it’s going to be a little different tournament than it was last year.
He won last year by posting a final-round 60 two hours before the leaders finished and it held up. He came from seven strokes back:
I don’t know what to say, man. I just — it was just a special round. I mean rounds like that, they don’t happen every day, or maybe like once in every five years you see a player shoot a round like that, especially being seven shots out of the lead.
I mean you’re just thinking about trying to improve your position, not trying to win the golf tournament.
He describes the deep state of consciousness that he achieved where you are oblivious to everything except trying to birdie every hole:
But I mean that’s a round that it’s hard to shoot. I mean you’re not thinking. You’re not thinking about anything but just hitting golf shots, trying to make birdies, and it just worked out for me, and I’m just glad it did.
He was so fascinated by what he was doing that he didn’t realize that his first putt on 18 was for a 59:
Well, I know it’s hard to remember, but I caught a lot of flack for, you know, you’re putting for 59 on the last hole, and like I told you last year, I didn’t remember. I mean I didn’t know I was putting for 59. I was just trying to make birdie on the last hole. And whatever it was it was.
But you know, I two‑putted for par and it worked out for me. So very glad of that.
Coming out of a public-course background, does he see himself as a role model for kids coming up from the public courses? He talked about the pressure he felt when money was a concern:
Absolutely, because you have to work a little bit to make the money instead of having the money with the background, or know a lot of people with money to help you out. And that’s something — you know, I’ve had some friends help me out with some money here and there to help me get where I’m at, which I’m so grateful, but it’s a different — it’s a lot of difference when you have the money and you don’t have to worry about it.
I call it security. When you’ve got security, you don’t worry about anything. You just go out and play, and if you play good, that’s good. If you play bad, then that’s fine. You just go get ’em next week. But when you’re spending your own dime makes it a little different. It’s more pressure that you put on yourself to play well.
There were times when he didn’t think he’d be able to make it to the Tour:
But he never really thought about quitting in spite of all the near-misses that are inevitable when you’re trying to work you way up towards the top:
I didn’t come close to giving up the game, but I got frustrated with it quite a bit. Like I just feel like, well, why can’t I get over the hump? I’m just as good as these guys. I’m making seven, eight birdies a round. Why am I not getting through?
Making a bad decision here and there, missing the cut by one shot, three‑putting this hole, three‑putting the last hole, missing the cut, missing Q‑School by one in finals to get the card. You know, things like that.
It really bugs you. It really hurts, because you dwell on the fact that I’ve been playing so long and I’m just wondering why it hadn’t happened yet. But it happens. I mean if you got a dream, go after it. You work hard and it works out in the end, because hard work pays off.
This from a guy who used to stuff insulation in hot water tanks to make ends meet. Even though he was talking about golf, he knows the meaning of hard work.
Gainey was a contestant in the Golf Channel’s, Big Break IV: USA vs Europe. He didn’t win but he came away with a very valuable skill set for a professional golfer:
Well, you know, “The Big Break” helped out a lot. One of the biggest things it helped me with is the camera. You know, a lot of players out here, you know, you get the camera on you, you’re saying, well, man, I don’t want to hit a bad shot, because there’s over a hundred million people watching the Golf Channel that’s looking at you. You don’t want them laughing at you, do you?
So it helped me with the camera. Get used to it and just worry about playing golf and not worrying about the people, the camera or anything else. It’s just all about hitting a golf shot.
Which is, of course, true of all of golf’s distractions.