Final Event Finally Not Scary for Boo

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 LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Boo Weekley was deep in the woods at dark for a quiet celebration.
 
It was opening day of bow hunting season in Florida.
 
'I ain't been able to hunt on opening day of bow season in six years,' Weekley said. 'I had to golf. I had to make money to keep my Nationwide Tour card or to get ready for Q-school. Dude, I was so excited. I was there an hour-and-a-half before daylight.'
 
Equally rewarding was what got him there.
 
This is the first time in six years that Weekley hasn't had to worry about where he was playing the following year or trying to explain to his family that he was good enough to make a living at a game they only saw as recreation.
 
Going into the final event of the season at Disney, Weekley already had earned $2.6 million and won at Hilton Head for his first PGA TOUR victory. He made his first trip overseas to Scotland this summer. He'll take his first drive down Magnolia Lane in April at the Masters.
 
And he's going to China next month to represent the United States in the World Cup.
 
Boo Weekley in China?
 
'They could open a new era in U.S.-China relations,' Scott Verplank said.
 
Even Weekley had a hard time digesting how a guy who grew up in the backwoods of the Florida Panhandle and once worked as a hydroblaster for Monsanto at $7.50 an hour could be carrying the flag for American golf in the World Cup.
 
He got the chance when Arron Oberholser withdrew to have surgery on his hand and five Americans ranked ahead of him weren't interested in spending Thanksgiving week in China on short notice. And he jumped on it when he realized he could take his old teammate at Milton High School, Heath Slocum, as his partner.
 
'It took me three days and then I realized, 'I can't believe I'm going to China.' It's hard to believe,' Weekley said Wednesday at the Children's Miracle Classic, where he is playing to start shaking off some of the rust. 'And the fact I get to take my best friend. Heath can relate to me. He knows me better than anyone. I get nervous around a lot of people. I'm like a cat in a roomful of rocking chairs.'
 
The trip to China was proof of how far Weekley has come this year. It also was a reminder that for all the hype over his homespun humor, twangy talk and simple lifestyle, the country boy can play golf pretty dang good.
 
He was a novelty when he first qualified for the PGA TOUR through qualifying school in 2002, back when he wore rain pants because regular britches gave him a rash, and sneakers because golf shoes made his feet sore. Asked where he went to college, Weekley replied, 'ABAC,' as if everyone knew about Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.
 
He didn't last long, finishing 200th on the money list, and spent three years on the Nationwide Tour before he made it back.
 
But what a return.
 
Weekley is among the best ball-strikers on tour, lacking only in self-belief. He found that in a troubling loss at the Honda Classic, when he three-putted for bogey from 30 feet on the final hole to fall into a four-man playoff, won the next day by Mark Wilson.
 
Most players would be scarred by missing a 3-foot par putt to win for the first time.
 
'It was probably by best moment, feeling that, 'OK, I belong here. I know I can compete,'' he said. 'I just choked. It happens to the best of us. Don't matter who you are.'
 
He won six weeks later by muffing a chip behind the 17th green at the Verizon Heritage, then chipping in for par to beat Ernie Els.
 
That put him in the spotlight more, and in front of a microphone.
 
He amused the British during his two weeks in Scotland, particularly when he was paired with Paul Lawrie at Loch Lomond and asked if he had qualified for the British Open -- apparently not realizing that Lawrie won at Carnoustie in 1999 and Open champions are exempt until they are 65. Worse yet, he had never heard of Jean Van de Velde.
 
Asked about the FedExCup, Weekley left the room laughing by saying, 'I was never good at math.'
 
Each one-liner fed into the perception of a country bumpkin who could swing a golf club. And that's just fine with Weekley. The twang is not an act. He naturally answers questions with a 'Yes, sir,' and refers to his parents as 'Daddy and 'Momma.'
 
He knows he can play. Whether anyone else pays attention to that is none of his concern.
 
'I like it that way,' he said. 'Don't want nobody to know. If you believe in who you are and what you're doing, you'll achieve your goals.'
 
So who is he? And what is he doing?
 
'I'm here to play golf,' Weekley said. 'And I'm going to do it as long as I can.'
 
Weekley doesn't mind mingling with the fans and the media, but he gets out of his comfort zone when approached by a horde of people. Perhaps the most nervous he felt all year was when he was asked to speak to students at Milton High, and found himself standing before a room of 100 kids and teachers.
 
'I started to stutter,' he said. 'I don't the spotlight. When I play, I don't hardly look at the ropes, just what in front of me.'
 
His future has never looked brighter.
 
One year he was on the Nationwide Tour, the next year he was No. 22 on the PGA TOUR money list, No. 36 in the world ranking, and on his way to China to play for his country.
 
And what does he know about China?
 
'It's a long ways away,' he said. 'And they got the Great Wall of China.'
 
That'll do.
 
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