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Breaking Big

Tommy “Two gloves” Gainey navigated the mini-tours and the tour before winning on the PGA Tour
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Jeremy Irons, March/April 2013

(continued from page 3)

“I don’t know what happened, but I get to the last tournament and I finished second to Davis Love at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic. I changed caddies, Don Donatello, he read putts for me, kept me loose. I had a great finish. What it did for me, for my confidence, was unbelievable.”

That finish wasn’t enough for him to keep full playing privileges on the tour for 2009. He went back and forth between the PGA Tour and the Tour that season, then only played the Tour in 2010, where he finally won a tournament and qualified off the money list to play the PGA Tour in 2011. Four third-place finishes in 2011 along with some other solid play allowed him to earn more than $2 million, securing a place on the PGA Tour for 2012, and ultimately leading to his win at the McGladrey.

“I was with Tommy the day after the McGladrey and I thought he would be really jacked up, in a real celebratory mood,” says Golf Channel commentator Charlie Rymer, who is also represented by Graham. “He was the opposite. He said ‘I worked my tail off to get there and I expected to win.’ That’s the way he is.”

Gainey had built quite a reputation as a mini-tour and big-money match player in the Carolinas. “I knew who he was before I knew him. Having grown up in South Carolina, I’d heard of this ‘Two Gloves’ guy, this guy who could play but couldn’t put it together to get on the PGA Tour,” says Rymer. “He was a mini-tour legend. When I started being represented by Paul Graham, I did some corporate outings with Tommy. I can remember being with Paul when Tommy was on the Tour and I told Paul I thought that was going to be as far as Tommy could go. Paul vehemently disagreed with me. He really saw what Tommy could do. He had a strong belief in Tommy. Tommy proved me wrong, and he’s been proving everybody wrong his whole life.”

Graham’s belief is grounded in the fact that Gainey is so well grounded himself. “He’s a real down-to-earth guy,” says Graham. “He loves South Carolina football, loves Carolina athletics, loves South Carolina, loves his son [Tommy III by a previous girlfriend], loves his wife [Erin], loves his family, his friends. He loves going to South Carolina football games, he’s a big Cowboys fan. There are no airs about him. I’ve never had a time where I’m scratching my head about this guy.”
And Graham quit scratching his head about Gainey’s inconsistent play. He knows Gainey is going to miss cuts, maybe a lot of them, and knows that Gainey will contend with the best.

“Tommy has what I call the ‘rainbow’ scorecard,” says Graham. “If you look at a scorecard on, it’s a whole bunch of colors, blue for birdies, yellow for bogies, red for big numbers. That’s sort of Tommy’s scorecard. I don’t worry about Tommy anymore, those rainbow cards. He’s got more game than anyone out there on tour. Just physical game, going out to hit a shot, it’s phenomenal.”

McGirt backs up Graham’s assertion, saying that from a pure ball-striking perspective, Gainey is right there with the best.

“The thing that has always impressed me, if you take a top 30 or 40 player in the world and Tommy, and you put them behind a wall and you can’t see a thing and you can only hear contact, and you saw the ball flight and you didn’t know which one was which, you would never be able to pick them apart,” says McGirt. “He hits it as good as anybody out here. He’s got that unorthodox swing, and that grip, but it works for him.”

That swing, combined with some occasionally dead-on putting, has given Tommy Gainey membership into golf’s most exclusive club, the PGA Tour. In the process of trying to prove to everyone else how much talent he has, he’s also proven it to himself.

“When I first got out here, I was star struck because I was with all these guys I grew up watching on TV,” says Gainey. “I’m as close to you as I am to them, on the practice range, in the locker room, in family dining. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh. I feel I am more comfortable in my own skin. My confidence is so much better than it was. Once you win out here, you prove a lot of people wrong. There were a lot of people who didn’t think I could get it done. Once you win out here, I proved to myself that I can do a lot bigger things.”

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