Boo who? Weekley takes place on PGA Tour

Thursday, January 10, 2002

HONOLULU -- Boo Weekley stepped out of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and dipped his toes in the Pacific waters that surround Oahu, a long way from his rural home in the Florida Panhandle and the simple life he has led for 28 years.

Equipment companies had bags stuffed with drivers and putters, ready to give him whatever he wanted. He already has done about 30 interviews in the five weeks since PGA Tour qualifying school, where he came out of nowhere to earn his card.

Jay Leno's people called and Weekley sent in a tape from his performance at Q-school, his play on the course and his interview. He was never invited to be on "The Tonight Show," but figures it was nice of them to show an interest.

"This motel we're staying, we call it the Pink Palace," he said. "Me and Heath Slocum, they're letting us stay here for free because we're wearing the logo. This ain't never happened on the mini-tours."

Welcome to the big leagues, Boo.

And for the rest of the PGA Tour, get ready for a Southern sensation who has piqued almost as much curiosity as a kid named Tiger some five years ago.

Only there won't be a glitzy marketing campaign like, "Hello, world."

"Hey, y'all," is more his style.

Weekley, who spent the past seven years playing the mini-tours when he wasn't helping out on the farm or working as a hydroblaster at a chemical plant, gets started on his PGA Tour career today in the $4 million Sony Open.

No one is sure what to expect, least of all Weekley.

"I ain't never had this," he said, his drawl as rich as syrup. "It's all new to me. But I'm still playing golf like I did on the mini-tours. The person hasn't changed."

It would be difficult for the tour to dream up a character like this.

Thomas Brent Weekley goes by "Boo" because he loved Yogi Bear's sidekick -- Boo-Boo -- as a kid watching cartoons. He wears tennis shoes when he plays because golf shoes make his feet sore. And he wears rain pants because of a skin condition that makes him break out in a rash when he wears regular golf pants.

"There's a name for it," he said of the skin condition. "But I sure don't know what it's called, and I couldn't even begin to pronounce it."

He went to college at ABAC. Weekley looked mildly surprised when no one knew that the acronym stood for Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, a two-year school in Tipton, Ga., where he studied turf science.

He finished school in 1994 and worked for Monsanto, where he started at $7.50 an hour as a hydroblaster. His father owns a pharmacy in Milton, Fla., and Boo helps out in the store when not working on his game or playing tournaments to make some quick cash.

Weekley obviously can play. On his third trip to Q-school, he finally got his card by closing with a 3-under 69 at Bear Lakes Country Club in south Florida and finishing at 18-under 414, tied for 23rd with 17-year-old Ty Tryon.

Now, he's in a tournament alongside defending champion Brad Faxon, Mercedes winner Sergio Garcia, Davis Love III, Tom Lehman, Jim Furyk and Fred Couples.

New Zealand Open

PARAPARAUMU BEACH, New Zealand -- Tiger Woods opened the New Zealand Open with a 1-under-par 70 Thursday to fall three strokes behind early leaders Craig Spence and Stephen Scahill.

"I hit the ball well, I just didn't make any putts. It was a tough day on the greens," said Woods, who birdied all three par-5s on the Paraparaumu Beach links.

Woods, coming off a tie for 10th last week in the Mercedes Championships, is playing in New Zealand for the first time as a tribute to his caddie, Steve Williams, who grew up near the course.

-- From wire reports

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