Boo weekley loves to fish almost as much as he loves to hunt, so he recognizes a baited hook when he sees one.
Last week at the Masters, where Weekley was making his first appearance, at the age of 34, people kept fishing for compliments or superlatives.
"Watcha thinka the course, Boo?" "How 'bout that Magnolia Lane, Boo?" "Ever see greens this fast, Boo?"
But Weekley, who affects a homespun naivete about two rural mailboxes shy of Forrest Gump's, refused to bite.
"I wasn't in awe, by no means," he said after his Tuesday practice round, shunning the Magnolia Lane lure. "It's just another bunch of trees and a golf course." He shrugged. "But it's a nice golf course. I don't want the chairman to take it the wrong way."
He turned to his agent, Jimmy Johnston. "Who's the chairman? It's not Hootie anymore, is it?"
This exchange took place under a green-and-white umbrella on the Augusta National lawn. But don't get the wrong idea. Boo (official name: Thomas Brent Weekley) wasn't buying rounds of highballs for well-heeled friends with pastel sweaters tied around their necks.
He was merely planting his elbows on the table long enough to satisfy a reporter and drain a plastic cup of ice water.
So the reporter cast another line the one about how, while growing up in the Florida panhandle, Weekley must have spent many a summer afternoon dreaming that he had a five-foot putt to win the Masters.
Boo shook his head. "As a kid, I really wasn't thinkin' about no golf," he answered. "I only got serious about it maybe 10 years ago."
The ripples around the lure spread out in undisturbed circles. Weekley shrugged again and smiled. "It's all about the history, and I'm not a history guy."
The problem with that argument was that Boo wanted to make history by winning the Masters on his first try. That feat was last accomplished by Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, and Zoeller, old-timers pointed out, was a bit like Boo an easygoing goober with a gift for folksy patter.
An even better analog is Sam Snead, the smooth- swinging, yarn-spinning, occasionally barefoot Virginian who won three Masters titles in a Hall of Fame career. (After triumphing in his first Tour event, the 1937 Oakland Open, Snead famously asked how The New York Times had gotten his photograph. "I've never been in New York in my life," he scoffed.)
Is it an act? Those who know Weekley well his hunting pals, his neighbors in Jay, Fla., his former teachers at Milton High invariably say, "With Boo, what you see is what you get." Or, "He's genuine."
But then Boo huddles with reporters behind the 18th green, as he did after a first-round 72, and you wonder if you've tuned into one of Jay Leno's sidewalk interviews with clueless passersby.
"Amen Corner?" Boo's eyebrows rise about an inch. "What's Amen Corner? Why is that a corner?"
Asked about a putt for eagle that he had narrowly missed on 15, Boo says, "I thought it was a par-4, to tell you the truth. I didn't know it was a par-5."
His parting words: "Thank y'all. You have a good one."
Boo's father and mother followed him for all 72 holes of the Masters, and while both of them satisfy the public imagination up to a point Tom Weekley chews tobacco and bellows, "Yeah! Boo-Boo!" from behind the ropes, and Patsy Weekley keeps the sun off her forehead with outlandish hats neither is a hick.
Tom is a pharmacist and Patsy worked as a registered nurse.
"They talk about Boo not knowing much about the Masters," Tom said, strolling through the pines by the 13th hole, "but he's read books and books on Ben Hogan. You can't read that much about Hogan and not know about the Masters."
What's more, the Weekleys used to cross the cul-de-sac from their fairway home in Milton to the house of neighbor David Banks for his Masters-week barbecues, giving the ribs and the TV equal attention.
"But Boo ain't gonna tell nobody that," Tom said. "It's not really a front, but there's a side of him that people don't know."
Patsy, meanwhile, bought into the whole Augusta National mystique. The azalea-spattered view from behind the 6th green was "the kind of stuff that couldn't be painted, it's so pretty." Patsy added, "This is just so exciting. When I walked through the gates yesterday ... chill bumps!"
Asked why her son didn't seem to share her excitement, Patsy said, "It's his way of putting everything in perspective. It's hard enough to concentrate and play good without getting caught up in the beauty and the crowds and the history."
Again with the history. Well, we're here to tell you that Weekley didn't make history last week not the books-will-be-written- about-it kind, anyway. But he definitely had his scrapbook moments.
One came on the par-5 13th hole in the first round. Two over par at the time, Boo drilled a five-iron approach from a sidehill lie to a tricky left-front pin and then drained a 12-footer for eagle, eliciting a roar from the grandstand along with choruses of "Booooooo!" ("Sometimes I think they just like the name," he says. "I don't think I'd be as big a hit as Thomas Weekley.")
On Day 2, needing a par on the 18th to be confident of making the cut, Boo sliced his drive over the trees onto the 10th hole, leaving a long, uphill shot over more trees and a giant scoreboard.
He nuked that approach into the gallery left of the green's upper tier, leaving a diabolical chip to the hole, which was cut on the lower level. With a minimum of fuss, Boo nudged his ball onto the green and watched it trickle toward the opposite fringe before boomeranging back down the hill to within a foot of the hole.
"We had that shot during the practice rounds," he said, giving a nod to caddie Joe Pyland, "so we knew what it was gonna do."
That's what makes Weekley so intriguing: the contrast between his lunch-pail pronouncements and his polished game. Yes, he has wrinkled pants and a paunch the product of long hours sitting immobile in duck blinds but Weekley also has one of the best swings on Tour, a repeatable, stays-on-plane action that would have made Hogan smile.
Boo is also a smarter player than he lets on. At Augusta he played to the center of most greens and tried to keep his ball below the hole, and when he did stray into the pines he calmly chipped back to the fairway.
Weekley prefers a measured approach off the course as well. "He's not an alligator rassler," explained his wife, Karyn. "He's caught a few gators, maybe, but he's never rassled 'em."
She was answering a question about the tall tales the media spreads about Boo, but she could just as easily have been speaking metaphorically.
Weekley made the point himself on Saturday by shooting a four-under 68, a score that thrilled the Boo-birds and boosted him onto the leader board in a tie for seventh.
"It just takes me a couple of days to get adjusted," he said, standing outside the clubhouse with two shopping bags of Masters souvenirs at his feet. "I don't care much for the cities. I like a little slower pace, and this place is pretty slow." He grinned. "Especially when you get out in traffic."
Asked if he had placed any side bets with his buddies Heath Slocum and Bubba Watson, the two other Milton High alums in the field, Boo shook his head. "I'm not really a betting person. I work too hard for my money to give it away."
Genuine? Absolutely. Two-faced? That too. Boo played most of the week with a scruffy mustache and goatee, but he showed up for his third round with a clean shave. "My wife kind of told me it started looking hideous," he told reporters. "She's like, It's time to trim it up or take it off. So I took it off."
It was a more boyish-looking Boo, therefore, come Sunday afternoon. Weekley drew defending champion Zach Johnson as his final-round partner, resulting in the odd sequence of 18 straight greenside ovations for Johnson followed by scattered boos and laughter for Weekley. ("We're friends," Weekley said, sharing his happiness with the pairing. "We both played the minitours on the way up. We know where we came from.")
With strong, gusty winds raking the course, Weekley went out in 37 and hung on doggedly until the 15th, where his well-flighted third shot spun back off the green and failed to do an Immelman i.e., rolled down the bank and into the pond.
Double bogey there and a bogey from the back fringe at 16 doomed Weekley's quest for a top 10 finish, but he saved his best for last, smacking a downwind nine-iron 170 yards on the final hole and canning his 18-footer for birdie. Weekley had, in fact, made Masters history: First player to be sent off the 72nd hole to sustained Booing.
"It's just golf," a grinning Weekley said afterward, shrugging off his final-round 77 and 20th-place finish. "As long as I get done without breakin' somethin' or hurtin' somebody, that's my goal."
Besides, he had another good tournament to look forward to: the Verizon Heritage on Hilton Head Island, S.C., where Weekley just happened to be the defending champion.
"It's been fun," he told the reporters behind the 18th green. "Now I'm gonna go get in my vehicle and drive over there."
With Boo, one has to conclude, what you see is what you get. But you have to remember that he decides what you see.