Boo Weekley has a unique way of looking at Augusta National

Boo Weekley has a unique way of looking at Augusta National

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Boo Weekley finished 20th in his first trip to Augusta.
Al Tielemans/SI

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.