The name sounds more like a children's storybook character than a PGA player leading the field. Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey's career reads somewhat like a story. Formerly an industrial metal assembly line worker, the 35-year-old from Camden, South Carolina draws double takes with his acrobatic back swing and his trademark two gloves. But the unlikely leader is quickly becoming a crowd favorite at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
After turning pro in 1998, Gainey appeared twice on the Golf Channel's TV show "The Big Break", first in 2005 on season IV and then came back to win the show's competition in 2007 on Season VII. The humble player claims the spot on the show tempered him for future competitions.
"Being on Break really did a lot for me," he said on the practice green at TPC Scottsdale. "I thank the Golf Channel for giving me the opportunity to be on the show, because I know a lot of people don't get that opportunity."
Gainey attributed his distance control and ball striking to his successful rounds posting 63 and 65, positioning him in the lead. What's the strategy for the next two rounds?
"Just keep doing it," he said. "Keep hitting fairways and greens and hopefully make some putts."
When asked if he feels butterflies on the infamous No. 16, Gainey replied excitedly.
"Oh absolutely I get nervous," he said, smiling. "How can you not get nervous with 20,000 people screaming at you?"
"If you don't hit a good shot, they 're going to be booing the crap out of you.
And if you hit a good shot, then they're cheering for you. It's like no other tournament I've ever played in."
Gainey's laid back southern mind-set has seemed to work in his favor, in handling the crowds' shall we say, colorful commentary.
"I don't take it to heart. I just take it and go with it," he said in his southern drawl, while shrugging his shoulders.
Gainey claims his trademark two gloves aren't so much a fashion statement or for function. When his father introduced him to the game as a boy, he would always wear a glove on each hand. Perhaps a carryover from another sport he enjoys: baseball.
When asked if he has any superstitions, Gainey said only that he likes to wear the color black. Perhaps some black magic and his lucky two gloves will help him secure a win.
-- Kathryn Stafford