Tommy Gainey doesn't care what people think of him, his only priority is winning
Some people call me a redneck, and I won't repeat what they say about my swing, but looks don't count on the PGA Tour, where the only thing that matters is winning.
I’ve been called Mittens, Gloves, Two Gloves, lots of things with Two. The Two Gloves nickname, I think everyone knows, came from playing baseball and from my father. My dad plays golf with two gloves as well. I guess you could say he’s the original.
It’s funny because nobody knew who Two Gloves was until I got on [Golf Channel’s] Big Break. If you asked a bunch of people, “Who’s Tommy Gainey?” you’d get a lot who said, “Who’s that?” But when you say “Two Gloves,” they know who you’re talking about.
I’ve been close to winning on the PGA Tour, but it’s all about learning from experience so you don’t make the same mistake twice. Boo Weekley told me in 2008, “I’m glad to have you here because the PGA Tour needs another redneck.” Then he said, “Tommy, this is what you do. You don’t have to do anything special. All you have to do is make cuts, because once you make cuts and play on the weekend, you have a chance to win. How many times do you see a guy make the cut on the number and then shoot 12, 13 under on the weekend, win the tournament or scare it and finish second or third?”
I feel as if I belong here, but deep down—and I think everybody feels the same way—you don’t feel like you really belong until you’ve won. The other players see you, and they know how well you played last year, but until you win, it’s: That guy, he’s unorthodox. He goes after it funny. He hits it with two gloves. Or as Brandel Chamblee said, “He swings at it as if he’s taking a garden hose and trying to kill a snake.”
But when you win, you’re a winner. Then they have to respect the man even if they might not respect the way he plays. I don’t get crap from players, but it’s a sense thing. I sense that the only way to belong is to win.
Even though I struggled off the tee quite a bit, I had seven top 10s last year. When you live in the rough, it’s hard to make birdies. I’ve focused on getting better with the driver because when I first got out here, I didn’t really think hitting it off the tee was important. I thought you could just beat it out there somewhere and get it up and down. That was the case on the mini-tours and some on the Nationwide tour, but out here it’s important that you hit the fairway because it sets up the rest of your game.
Last year I was hurt at times. I had a muscle strain in my ribs, I had a wrist injury, and then I had an elbow problem. Sometimes my back would act up a little bit. I’m trying to eat better and get in better shape. I’m cutting out a lot of Coca-Cola. I used to drink six or seven a day. I drink two a day now. That’s a huge amount of sugar I’ve cut out. I can tell the difference in a lot of ways as far as my stamina.
It’s really different out here compared with the mini-tours. I miss all the games I used to have, all the matches I used to play with my buddies on the Tarheel, the eGolf, the Gateway, the Hooters tours. I went through all the ranks. It wasn’t so long ago that I was working at A.O. Smith, wrapping insulation on water heaters and moving furniture. My friends and family are the reason I’m here today. They kept on with the positive reinforcement: Listen, you ought to be on the PGA Tour with all those guys. You’re one of the best players in the world. You have the game to do it. They kept beating it into my head. Without all of that, I would still be at A.O. Smith.
I just signed with Callaway Golf, and we did a commercial where—I kid you not—they put us on top of a casino in Vegas, 30 stories high. I’m scared of heights. I get on airplanes because I don’t have a choice. So we get up there, and they say, “You’re going to hit it from here to the top of another casino, where we have a green.” So I’m hitting a five- or six-iron, and they made it look like I hit it to four or five feet. Then I got in a helicopter, flew to the other casino and made the putt. You know who else was there? Annika Sorenstam, who has won 10 majors; Fredrik Jacobson, a PGA Tour winner; and Olin Browne, who won the U.S. Senior Open last year and has won three tournaments on the PGA Tour.
And then there was me, with seven top 10s last year, no wins. For Callaway to want me to be the main character is pretty awesome, thinking I have that much game to be something special for the company.
I’m trying to win golf tournaments and to secure my three-year-old son’s future. He lives with his mother, so he doesn’t get to see his dad very much. I played 35 tournaments last year, which means only 17 weeks at home with my family in South Carolina. I have my wife, my son, a brother and two sisters, four nieces and a nephew. I still have both my parents, but they’re getting older, and when your parents get older, bad health is on the horizon. I’m missing that I’m not getting to spend much time with them. My son is too young to realize what’s going on, but when he’s five or six, he’ll understand that he doesn’t see his dad very much and he’ll understand the reason is that I’m trying to save up and plan for his future and his life. To me, that’s what this is all about.
I always believed I had the game to play out here, but it’s all about timing. When it’s your time, you’re going to make it. You can’t force things. I want to be in the winners’ club, and that’s the fire that drives me. It’s all about winning out here. You can spend the money. You can’t spend that trophy.