The high point of Tommy Gainey’s
rags-to-riches PGA Tour career came last fall, when the long-time mini-tours player broke through with his first big-leagues victory at the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island – just down the Atlantic Coast from this week’s RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing
Until then, though, Gainey’s premier moment was at Harbour Town Golf Links
in 2011, when he was a missed birdie putt on the 18th green from joining eventual winner Brandt Snedeker and England’s Luke Donald in a playoff. His third-place finish was worth $387,600 – a payday that helped boost his rising golf career.
Little wonder, then, that the former star on Golf Channel’s “Big Break” reality series – where the nation was first introduced to his “Two Gloves” nickname for his habit of wearing golf gloves on both hands – holds his home state’s lone annual PGA Tour stop in high esteem. It’s his “fifth major,” the event he’d most like to claim outside the Masters, U.S. and British Opens and PGA Championship.
“No doubt,” he said Tuesday as he prepared for Thursday’s first round and his fifth appearance at Harbour Town since 2008. “What’s better than winning in your home state? I (live) less than four hours from here” in his hometown of Bishopville
. “And it’s the Heritage. There’s a lot of great history here, a lot of great players who have won here.”
He grinned hugely. “And I’d like to be on that list.”
So would every player from South Carolina, a roster that this week includes nine native-born players, former state college stars or current residents. None of those, however, has finished higher at Harbour Town than Gainey.
So whom does he like to win this week? “I like myself,” he said. “I’ve had some great finishes here, finished one shot out of the (2011) playoff. I’ve got a good record here, and I plan to live up to the hype.”
If so, he’ll have to overcome a slow start in 2013, but Gainey thinks his experience on the golf course, and the demands of Harbour Town, can play in his favor.
“It’s in my home state first of all, and second, you don’t have to shoot 20-under (par) to win here,” he said. Last year’s champion, Carl Petterson, shot 14-under 270 to win by five shots; Snedeker won in 2011 with a 12-under 272.
This year’s field is one of the strongest in recent years, meaning the challenge will be great, Gainey said. “Just look at the names: You’ve got Hunter Mahan, Ernie Els, (2010 winner) Jim Furyk,” he said. “I could go on and on.
“I’m just glad to be part of this strong a field, on a golf course I like – and in my home state.”
Rock me to sleep: Kyle Stanley lived the past three years at Berkeley Hall in Bluffton, just up the road from Hilton Head, but he never had accommodations for the RBC Heritage quite like this year.
The former Clemson
All-American, who has relocated to Seattle, near his hometown of Gig Harbor, Wash., is about as close to the golf course as you can get. He’s sleeping on a 90-foot yacht, the “No Worries,” which is moored at Harbour Town Marina.
“It’s weird, because last year I stayed at home, and it takes longer to get here (to Harbour Town) than you’d think,” Stanley said. “It’s nice to be that close by. We’re right in the harbor, and it’s pretty fun. I’ve never been on a boat like that before.”
Stanley said he’s one of eight guys – but the only PGA Tour player – bunking aboard the boat, which is being provided by two buddies who are his former neighbors in Berkeley Hall. He grinned when asked how comfortable his digs are.
“I’ve never slept on the water before,” he said. “It’s not bad.”
K.J. Choi bent down to shake a tiny hand on the practice putting green behind Harbour Town’s clubhouse on Tuesday, smiling at the awestruck youngster looking up at him. It was hard to tell who was having more fun.
Choi and fellow PGA Tour players Colt Knost, Chris Stroud and Robert Allenby captivated about 50 youngsters, ages 3-15, taking part in the Coca-Cola Youth Day. Participants received T-shirts with “Cradle of Champions” on the back and the RBC logo on the front, along with backpacks and caps, plus prizes for “winners” in a putting contest that had no losers.
“It’s our fourth year, and this is our biggest turnout in two years,” said Joe Quick, director of development for the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation, which provided staff for the event. In the first couple of years, former S.C. Junior Golf Association players and PGA Tour pros Jonathan Byrd, Lucas Glover, Charles Warren and D.J. Trahan served as hosts.
Also Tuesday: Brian Gay, 2010 RBC Heritage champion, and his family attended the “Plaid About Reading Pro Visit” at Okatie Elementary School starting at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday. Students from the school won the visit for reading the most books and winning the “Plaid About Reading” contest. …The Callaway Wounded Warrior Club Fitting was held at the Harbour Town driving range Tuesday morning, where four injured U.S. military personnel were fitted for olf clubs provided by fitters from the Callaway Golf equipment trailer.