Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey shared the first-round lead with Johnson Wagner at 8-under 62.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - It was the Fourth of July.And on the first competitive day of the Greenbrier Classic, there couldn't have been a better, more compelling All-American story than Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey. He's a Yankee Doodle Dandy from South Carolina who provided some fireworks, shooting a 62, good for a tie at the top.Never heard of him?If you're a serious golf fan, you might have seen him on the Golf Channel's "Big Break." He won "Big Break VII."
If you're not a serious fan, put on your reading glasses. Because the guy is worth getting to know.There's his nickname. There's his unorthodox swing. And there's his background. He was working in a water heater factory before finding golf success."I grew up poor," Gainey said. "And I'm playing on the PGA Tour. I'm a PGA Tour winner. It doesn't get any better than that."Gainey is a 38-year-old who recorded his first PGA Tour victory last year at The McGladrey Classic at Sea Island, Ga. Since then, though, it's been quiet for Gainey. Very. As in cue the sound of crickets. During one stretch this season, Gainey missed nine of 11 cuts.He entered the Classic No. 125 in money winnings and No. 128 in FedExCup standings.Time for a family powwow."My family, my support system around me, noticed I've forced the issue," Gainey said. "Ever since last year, I felt I should be playing more consistent, better, contending more. ... I was putting so much pressure on myself. They noticed it and talked with me."We sat down and ironed it out and now I'm just trying to have fun. That's what this game is to me. It's a lot of fun. I really don't want to go back into a factory, even back to [sponsor] A.O. Smith. I love what I'm doing right now."All about Gainey is unconventional, especially his nickname, earned because he wears two golf gloves when putting."I got that from my father," Gainey said. "My father played golf and introduced me to the game. When he played, he wore two gloves. Does now. I'd take his old gloves and play with them."When I'd play baseball, I'd wear two gloves batting. I took it from there, took it from him, and voila!"
That swing?"My swing is pretty much a baseball swing that's turned into a golf swing," Gainey said. "I'd call my whole game unorthodox. But look at all the players out here. No two players are the same. Everybody goes about their business in different ways. There's more than one way to shoot 62. My way is to be aggressive. If I need to back off, I back off. But I don't back off much."Not even after working in a water heater company."You get spoiled out here," Gainey said. "And I am. But I'm very proud to have A.O. Smith, the company I used to work for, as a sponsor. ... They make the best water heaters in the country."A classic American story on the Fourth of July."My parents were poor," Gainey said. "They worked the 8-to-5, 9-to-5 jobs Monday through Friday, sometimes Saturday. If it was needed, they worked Sunday. I just appreciate what my parents instilled in me.
"I didn't have it easy. I had to work for what I got. I mean, they were good to me though. I'm a candy freak and they gave me candy all the time when I was growing up."Thursday's round was certainly a treat. Gainey went back to that meeting with his wife, sister- and brother-in-law and agent."They said, 'You're playing bad; what's going on?' I said, 'I feel like I'm trying to force the issue.' They said, 'Tom, you won a tournament last year because you were having fun playing the game you love to play.' I'd gotten away from that."He's having fun now. All-America-type fun."The Greenbrier is America's resort," Gainey said. "I've seen the commercial with all they have to offer. I see why they call it that. I'm going to try and experience America the beautiful here."I mean, how beautiful is this place? It's just awesome."So is the story of Gainey. He lives in Hartsville, S.C., a stone's throw from his parents and family in Bishopville. And in all-America fashion, he loves those parents."They sacrificed a lot for me when I was growing up," Gainey said. "Now it's my turn to help them out. I mean, I can't repay what they've done for me. But I'll tell you I can make their lives a little easier. They're getting a little older and their health is getting worse. It's time for me to step up and care for them as they cared for me."Time to give them a hand or two.Gloved, of course.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.