Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey is living proof that good things can happen to those who follow their dreams.
Gainey’s dream came true when he shot a final-round 10-under-par 60 on Oct. 21 that gave him a one-shot victory in the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island, Ga. The 37-year-old Bishopville native pocketed $720,000, but more importantly he proved he was good enough to win on the PGA Tour.
“Winning is everything. From back in the day to right now, it proves I can do it. It was just a matter of time,” Gainey said Tuesday before participating in the Denny and Mark Pro-Am Jam golf tournament at Daniel Island Club. The pro-am was a charity event hosted by NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin and musician Mark Bryan.
Gainey’s first PGA Tour victory gives him a two-year exemption on the Tour and a spot in next year’s season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, a no-cut, 30-player event in Hawaii.
“I’m a little tired,” said Gainey, who lives in Hartsville. “I haven’t stopped since (winning). I’m starting to feel it a little bit, but it comes with the territory.”
Gainey has two more pro-am events and the Walt Disney tournament, then plans to kick back and relax until it’s time to travel to Hawaii.
It’s been a great ride for someone who didn’t play college golf. Gainey attended Central Carolina Technical College and took an assembly line job wrapping insulation around water heaters for A.O. Smith, now one of his primary sponsors.
The McGladrey Classic wasn’t the first time Gainey flirted with shooting 59; it just came on a national stage.
A little over nine years ago, Gainey was working as a cart attendant at Dunes West Golf Club in Mount Pleasant. During a late afternoon round with head pro Kevin Zemnickas and Daniel Gurken, Gainey had a chance to shoot 59 but missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole, a round that also included a bogey.
People in the Lowcountry began to take notice and helped him put together enough money to enter a mini-tour event, which he won. Gainey became a national name when he won The Golf Channel’s Big Break VII in 2007. His nickname stems from his habit of wearing gloves on both hands, something that dates back to his days of playing baseball.
Gainey started the final round of the McGladrey trailing badly but moved up 28 spots with eight birdies and an eagle.
“I wasn’t thinking about 59,” Gainey said. “All I was trying to do was make birdies. I was seven shots out of the lead. It was one of those days I couldn’t do anything wrong. I got in the zone and rode it out.”
Other celebrities participating Tuesday included: Joe Gibbs, former Washington Redskins coach and current NASCAR team owner; George Rogers, Heisman Trophy winner from South Carolina and former NFL star; Sterling Sharpe, former USC football star and NFL great; and Edwin McCain, singer/songwriter from Greenville.
Pro Jay McLuen and partners David Hudson, Chris Bruder, Christian Pearsall and Ben Tonon won the pro-am with a score of 27-under-par in the Shambles format.
Proceeds from the pro-am, estimated at about $125,000, will go to the Student Transportation of America Education Foundation, Mark Bryan’s Carolina Studios and the Medical University of South Carolina.