RBC Heritage event special for SC native “Two Gloves”

Following Darlington native and current PGA Tour professional Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey at the RBC Heritage held in Hilton Head this week is very similar to following Tiger Woods.

With Gainey playing so near his hometown, the friends and family have all made the trip for a week of sunshine and fellowship with the Palmetto State’s favorite golf son.

Two Gloves, as he’s referred to in almost every golf circle, and even introduced as while walking up the 18th green, is now in his second year of full-time play on the PGA Tour.  And although he is still looking for that first win on the tour, he’s come pretty close in the past, including last year’s performance here in Hilton Head that saw him putting for an 18-footer that would have put him into a playoff with current No. 1-ranked Luke Donald and current Heritage champ Brandt Snedeker. That 18-foot putt slid by the hole, and Two Gloves’ lifelong goal of playing in the Masters, which extends an invitation to the Heritage winner, was put on hold once again.

Tommy Gainey, Sr. said Friday “He was always running around telling people that he wanted to play on the PGA Tour and that one day he’d play in the Masters.”

Two Gloves was 13 when he first started playing golf, according to his father, and he picked it up fairly quickly. Gainey’s nickname “Two Gloves” comes from his unorthodoxed style of playing with two black golf gloves, a trend he picked up while playing the sport of baseball. It’s also somewhat a tradition in the Gainey household, as his father also wears two gloves while playing golf.

In addition to the unique Two Gloves preference, Gainey also swings the golf club unlike anyone else on tour, almost squatting down and hitting it like a baseball. Upon first appearance, any knowledgeable golf fan would assume that his shot would go wide left or right, but seconds later, those drives fly straight and center down the fairway, landing farther than most. It’s unique, but it works for him.

Every one of those crazy looking shots at The Heritage produces a round of applause, and hoots from the gallery, typically one of the larger galleries at this event. During the first round of play on Thursday, most players had 5-10 followers.  Gainey’s group grew to over 60 people near the end of the round, comprised mostly of family, friends, acquaintances, and Gamecock fans wearing the required colors. Those numbers swelled even larger on Friday, as friends began arriving in town for the weekend.

The crowds only seem to fuel Gainey, but require special considerations from Marvin King, his caddy. Playing in threesomes, whenever Gainey finishes his shot, the gallery has a tendency to begin moving toward the next hole or shot. But typically, there is at least one or more players still to shoot, causing a disruption to the next hitter. Marvin, in classy fashion, is often heard yelling for the gallery to be still. Most in the gallery know and respect Marvin, and stop immediately.

Seeing so many familiar faces might intimidate most players, but for Gainey it doesn’t seem to bother him a bit.  In fact he often takes time to casually chat with those he recognizes, and a few that he doesn’t. During Thursday’s opening round, Two Gloves walked over to John O’Brien from Columbia and inquired what he was drinking. When O’Brien answered “Hot Tea”, Gainey asked him where he got it.   When he discovered that he had gotten it from the concession stand, Two Gloves walked under the rope and went to get in line to buy some himself. It’s fairly unheard of to see a professional golfer getting in line while playing. He’s just a regular guy on the course.

While appearing Friday morning on Florence’s sports talk show “The Press Box” with Allen Smothers and Emerson Phillips, Gainey said “I’m so humbled to have so many friends, so much support with my family here. What better place to win than here.” While that might be the party line to speak, you can hear it in the tone of his voice that he is genuinely humbled by the love that is shown during this week of golf.

Gainey is still looking for that first win, and that first trip to the Masters. Going into the weekend, Gainey currently sits at 2-UNDER for the week and tied for 16th place. He would need to get to around 12-under to have a shot to win. If it happens, with all those in attendance, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see fans rush the green similar to a basketball team with a big win.  It would just be one more unorthodox way of doing things, but for Gainey it would be the experience of a lifetime. For the family and friends in attendance, it would be a long time coming, something they’ve hoped for the since the early days when Gainey was still wrapping water heaters with AO Smith, his current sponsor on the tour. It was during those days that friends started encouraging him to pursue his dreams.

With seven top ten finishes last year on the tour, Gainey is getting close.  Now in his fourth trip to the Heritage, Gainey says “I’m a real good ball striker, I’m starting to hit it better off the tee, I feel like my game is ready to contend for a ‘W’.”

That ‘W’ would be a dream come true for a lot of folks, and this week would be the perfect time to do it. The Heritage Trophy and that plaid jacket are calling, and of course, all the flashing light bulbs from friends and family that go along with it. South Carolina should be proud.

Photo credit: Kevin Zemnickas

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