CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — If Boo Weekley wins this week’s 136th British Open, the claret jug is likely to become the world’s most expensive spittoon.
In a game historically defined by snobbery, silver spoons and country club pretension, Weekley is a provincial hurricane of fresh air. The 33-year-old native of Milton, Fla., might fit in at Carnoustie like a banjo with the Boston Pops. But after 36 impressive holes on the Angus Monster, there’s no doubt that Weekley belongs at the British Open.
Turns out the 18-hole hardpan otherwise known as Tanglewood Golf Course requires the same bump-and-run mastery as links golf.
“It’s very similar to how it is back home on the golf course I grew up on,” Weekley said after adding a 72 to his opening 68 yesterday at Carnoustie to move within four strokes of midpoint leader Sergio Garcia. “It’s a lot shorter, the one I grew up on, but it’s firm like this and it plays pretty fast … I like links golf.”
Weekley does not, however, particularly fancy Scottish food.
“It’s been rough,” Weekley said. “It’s different eating here than back home. Ain’t got no sweet tea, and ain’t got no fried chicken.”
They don’t sell no dip in Scotland, neither. In fact, it’s considered extremely bad form to spit in public at all in Britain, one of several reasons former British Open champion David Duval wasn’t particularly revered by the locals during his victory at Lytham & St. Annes in 2001.
But pleasing outsiders has never been high on Weekley’s agenda. Though he’s still trying to quit tobacco, Weekley brought his own stock of snuff with him from the Florida panhandle, arriving at the Edinburgh airport before last week’s Scottish Open with more than 50 cans of smuggled-in Skoal.
If you think you’re starting to get a pretty clear picture of Weekley, trust us, you don’t know the half of it.
You see, there’s provincial. And then there’s Boo. He’s more country boy than pure redneck, more ingratiating Gomer Pyle than grating John Daly.
Nicknamed Boo for his childhood fascination with Yogi’s Bear’s sidekick, Thomas Brent Weekley largely grew up on his grandparent’s soybean and cotton farm outside of Milton, a town on the Blackwater River frozen between the Alabama border and the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricanes and big storms used to flood the river and deposit alligators on the family’s front porch. Weekley would lasso the gators, pitch them in the back of his pickup and “relocate ‘em.”
He never had much interest in school or TV or video games. He spent two semesters at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga., a school noted for its rodeo program. But primarily, he always has liked playing golf. After terrorizing the minitours for years, Boo broke through at Q-School in 2001, skipping the Nationwide Tour entirely and earning his 2002 PGA Tour card.
Weekley was suddenly sharing locker rooms with the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. He wasn’t ready, and maybe neither were they. He made few friends with his open, simple charm on the cliquish tour … and even fewer cuts.
He was knocked back down to the Nationwide Tour, where he served a four-year apprenticeship before graduating to the big show again after last season. He returned a little less naive as a person and a lot more mature as a player, posting a breakthrough victory at the Verizon Heritage Classic earlier this season with chip-ins on the 71st and 72nd holes.
In his major debut last month, he posted a respectable tie for 26th at the U.S. Open. And now, suddenly, he finds himself in the weekend mix in the oldest championship in golf, answering questions for a British press enthralled with his “yes, sir/no, sir” manners and magnetic backwardness. He already has had more than his share of awkward moments. After playing a round with Paul Lawrie at Loch Lomond in last week’s Scottish Open, Weekley made the mistake of telling the Brits he had never heard of the 1999 British Open champion, nor Jean Van de Velde. After all, aside from NASCAR, Weekley isn’t much on TV, nor any sporting history.