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06 December 2023

Boo doing things different

Weekley has grown tired of the game but wants to earn enough to retire. (GETTY IMAGES)

By John McAuley

Thomas Brent Weekley is not your conventional professional golfer. For a start, he doesn't particularly enjoy playing golf, or watching it for that matter.

He has made his millions – $5.36m (Dh19.6m) to be exact – by avoiding the trees and the lakes of the world's foremost golf courses, but the unassuming American with the deep southern drawl would much rather be among them, armed with his rifle or fishing rod.

'Boo' – a sobriquet first founded when "maw and paw would come home from work and say, 'how about ya Boo Boo', because I liked the Yogi Bear cartoon" – has stuck with the 35-year-old, so much so that his PGA Tour profile neglects to bear his Christian name.

But Boo doesn't mind. "Everybody where I live has a nickname."

Home is currently Jay, Florida and Weekley is that enamoured by the languorous lifestyle in America's backwaters that he can't wait to get back from Doha, where, this weekend, he is contesting the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy. Yet it's not because he doesn't like the country.

"It wasn't exactly what I thought it was gonna be," he reveals with his loaded Floridian intonation. "I thought it was gonna be all desert and it's actually a bunch of high rises. It's a lot different to America, but in a good way. When I go somewhere new it's good to see that not everywhere is like the States. Thank God."

A member of the PGA Tour since 2006, the southern swinger has decided to finally see some of the world – his first foray outside the US was at the 2007 British Open in Carnoustie – and the urge to "mix it" with his European counterparts has brought him to the Middle East.

"I just wanted to try somethin' different, you know? I want to play a bit on the European Tour and just see what it's like to play over here. I know I can play well in the US so I wanted to see what I'm like with these guys.

"So I'm starting to get to where I like to. I just thought, 'Hell I live in the States and get lost there all the time, why not come over here and get lost?' I'm sure the calibre of players is the same, whether or not I'm up for the challenge is another matter, because I'm kinda tired."

The long-haul flight to the Qatari capital isn't just what's ailing him, though. Weekley has been drained by past exertions, borne from a nomadic existence on golf's minitours. He had to graft for that elusive PGA Tour card.

He eventually qualified at the third time of asking in 2002. A celebratory cheque for $25,000 followed, as did the tears.

"Yes sir, I cried when I got my PGA Tour card the first time. I just worked so hard to get there and had finally made it."

However, Weekley lasted only one season after missing 19 of 24 cuts on the circuit. He was demoted to the Nationwide Tour, where he'd spend three years hopping hopelessly from one tournament to the next before regaining his place on America's elect in 2006.

But, despite two Tour victories and an unbeaten Ryder Cup debut last year, the enthusiasm has waned. The grind of the game is beginning to bog Boo down.

"I really don't talk a lot of golf and I sure don't want watch it," he says. "It's a job to me and, as soon as I get done doing my job, the sooner I'm ready to go home and do something different.

"Don't get me wrong, as a job it's more than good. It's unreal to be able to do this for a living and make what we make, just priceless to tell you the truth. And I take my job real serious too. I want to be able to play for however long I want to, make all I can make and then I'm done.

"I want to cash my chips in and go home and relax with my family. That's it. This is work and it's good, but it ain't no fun to me. It ain't no fun being away from home."

He has always been happiest when in Florida. He shares his residence with Karyn, his wife, and his two sons, seven-year-old Thomas Parker and seven-month old Aidan O'Neill. He admits to missing all three when he's on the road, something that threatens to end his career before the world of golf really sees the best of him.

The former chemical plant hydroblaster has the game to compete at the top. His ball-striking is exemplary – he sits eighth on the Tour for greens in regulation (at 79.17 per cent) and is 14th in driving accuracy – but he would swap his clubs for a rifle in a heartbeat. Hunting is his passion.

"I haven't done it as much as I want to this year," he offers. "When I'm at home I love to just get in my golf cart and drive up into the woods and hunt. We don't ever get to use a cart when we're playing hardly, so I went ahead and bought me one so I can ride around in the woods.

"And when I go in there I sit on the ground, take a nap for three or four hours and just let everything out of me that's been building up for the whole year.

"The stuff I keep inside me that I get angry about, just the little things that I can think about when I relax in the woods. I like it because it's peaceful, it's just you and what the good Lord built.

"And when I finish my career I just want to go there and kill me some big ol' deer," he adds. "And catch some big ol' fish. That's my goal, to be in my house and have my buddies over to show off my trophies. Not the golf ones, the stuffed animals."

His buddies include Heath Slocum and Bubba Watson, fellow professional golfers and hunting hombres from around the Backwater River.

Weekley is also as deadly when it comes to the interview. He agrees to some true or false questions and when quizzed about being the only pro not to wear golf shoes, replies: "No I wear them with insoles now. I never used to, no sir, because I've torn the arches off my feet from playing baseball and soccer and stuff."

Soccer? "Yeah I was pretty decent at that. They called me Ol' Thunderfoot because I could kick it long ways when I was young.
"I used to play forward or on the wing because I was pretty quick and light on my feet back then. I'm a little heavy now."

What about stories that he has wrestled alligators and, rather bizarrely, fought orangutans? Weekley's answer defines his character.

"The orangutan's true, but I never wrestled an alligator. I've caught them, but never wrestled."

The orangutan's true?

"I can't tell you any more buddy. You said this is true or false. This ain't no story-telling time."

Boo Weekley. Not your average golfer.

Boo on Obama

Weekley may be in Qatar at the moment, but he has spent the past few weeks watching America gear up for new President Barack Obama.

"It's been pretty crazy watching him, but I'm not really into politics. I know we've had a rough spell over the past couple of years and maybe this will help change things and get us on the right track.

"I just hope nothing bad comes out of this, nothing racial. The main thing is to get our troops back from overseas. We're ready for all that to come to an end."

The world No40 has already checked out Obama's new place of work, after George W Bush invited the full US Ryder Cup-winning team to the White House for lunch last September. Weekley describes the experience: "It was neat. I didn't know there was that many rooms in the White House, the place is huge, man. They've got a bowling alley and a movie thing up in there.

"I was a little nervous, but the main thing for me was not to knock nothing over and break it. I'm like a bull in a china shop, somehow I always end up tearing something up without knowing what I'm doing – by accident. But I did a good job. I did not touch nothing. I didn't sit down but one time and that was just to eat.""