HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Grits, pick-up trucks and Tommy Gainey. They’re all right at home in the South Carolina Lowcountry.
This week, the self-proclaimed “good ol’ country boy” is even more comfortable, because he’s sitting near the top of the leaderboard after three rounds of the Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links.
Thanks to a second straight 4-under-par 67, the pro known as “Two Gloves” was 8 under and part of a three-way tie for fifth with Ricky Barnes and Jason Day. Luke Donald, who can take over the world No. 1 ranking with a victory here, led the Heritage at 11-under 202.
“Boo Weekley, at the Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) a few years ago, he came up to me and said, ‘I’m glad to see you out here because we need another redneck out here.’ My neck is red, but I’m just a good ol’ country boy just like Boo,” Gainey said. “We’re just trying to make it out here.”
Sporting anything but the country club pedigree of many of his fellow touring pros, Gainey came to golf’s major league thanks to a homemade swing and a lot of perseverance. Along the way, he has been a cart attendant at a Charleston area golf club, chased a variety of mini-tours and taken a shot at Golf Channel’s “Big Break.”
He even worked on an assembly line, making water heaters for a company, A.O. Smith, whose logo he proudly displays on his clothing and golf bag, even today.
Now in his second stint on the PGA Tour after regaining his card on the Nationwide Tour last year, Gainey grew up in Bishopville, S.C., a small town only a few hours up the road but worlds away from the posh luxury of one of golf’s best known island destinations that has hosted the Heritage since 1969.
Still, he’s plenty comfortable at Harbour Town, where he’s enjoying plenty of local support in his home state.
“No question about it--you definitely feed off the fans,” Gainey said. “You make a couple of birdies and you get the fans pumped up. I get pumped up right along with them.”
Gainey gave the fans plenty to cheer about Saturday, making six birdies, including a dramatic hole-out from the bunker that fronts the 18th green.
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