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Notebook
Gary Van Sickle
December 10, 2001
Q School SurpriseBoo Who?
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December 10, 2001

Notebook

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Numbers

We keep hearing about how much farther PGA Tour players hit the ball now than they did in 1980, when the Tour began keeping track of statistics, but in fact the pros have made a much bigger improvement in a less glamorous aspect of the game--bunker play. Here are the Tour averages for the six main statistical categories for 1980 and for 2001.

1980

2001 %

UPGRADE

Sand Saves

43.2%

51.4%

19.0%

Drive Distance

256.9

279.4

8.8%

Drive Accuracy

63.2%

68.6%

8.5%

GIR

64.7%

66.5%

2.8%

Putts Per Rnd.

29.89

29.06

2.8%

Scoring Avg.

72.15

71.14

1.4%

Q School Surprise
Boo Who?

Six hundred miles from home, the country boy pulled into the parking lot at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., and marveled that he'd completed the journey. "Wow, I made it," Thomas (Boo) Weekley said with a smile. "I'm here. I'm finally here."

Weekley, a 28-year-old career mini-tour player from Milton, Fla. (pop. 8,000), was too naive to know that you're not supposed to sound excited when you show up for the six-round death march that is the Q school final. Only the top 35 (as well as anyone who tied for 35th) out of last week's 167-player field would earn PGA Tour cards for 2002, and the pressure was so unsettling that at one point teen phenom Ty Tryon was guzzling Maalox.

In this overheated environment the happy-go-lucky Weekley was the event's most unlikely success story. A PG-rated version of John Daly, only frumpier, Weekley rubs his gut while standing on the tee box for good luck and, owing to his ever-present pinch of chewing tobacco, spews spittle on the course. Because of his extra-wide feet, Weekley eschews golf shoes in favor of chunky sneakers, and an itchy skin condition on his right leg compels him to wear baggy rain-pants instead of trousers.

For all of his idiosyncrasies, Weekley blended in nicely with an opening-round 66 that tied for the lead. "I ain't nervous," he said. "I ain't never been here, so I don't know what to feel." Oblivious of the Tour code that a player must bang balls until the sun sets, Weekley rushed straight to T.G.I. Friday's after signing his score-card each day, and by the time everyone else was leaving the course, he was at the Comfort Inn playing solitaire on his laptop.

Weekley took up golf when he was 15 after injuring his left rotator cuff while pitching for Milton High. Ambidextrous and self-taught, he began playing golf as a left-hander, but after shanking a ball off his high school coach, he went righty. Weekley studied turfgrass management for l� years at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga., but left because, he says, "I ain't liking school much." He took odd jobs picking cotton and soybeans on his grandfather's 1,000-acre farm in Milton and spent three years earning $8.50 an hour as a hydro blaster for a chemical plant.

While his childhood friend Heath Slocum was preparing for a pro career, Weekley spent his spare time turkey or deer hunting after work and sleeping in the back of his truck. "All of us thought he had enough talent to play on Tour," says Jerry Driggers, Weekley's golfing buddy back home at Tanglewood Country Club. "It was hard to convince him. He thought he wasn't worldly enough. He's never been to New York or Chicago. He feared big towns and thought good players came only from them."

Weekley played the mini-tours for the past four years, winning 26 times and building the confidence to return to Q school after two failed tries. During Monday's final round Weekley chipped in twice to key a clutch 69, which pushed him to 18 under and a tie for 23rd. When the final putt dropped, he hugged his caddie, Jack Slocum (Heath's father), high-fived his manager and began an hourlong whirlwind of being pursued by glad-handing reporters, job-seeking caddies and equipment representatives. "This is unreal," a giddy Weekley said. "I could use a beer."

Alone at last, Weekley called his wife, Karyn, who had monitored the tournament in Milton at the family-owned Weekley Pharmacy. "I didn't know whether to cry or scream or set the course on fire," he said into the phone. "Can you imagine? They all think I'm some good ol' country boy. Next year I'm going to show up as the big-time city boy."
—Yi-Wyn Yen

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