Commentary

Weekley's antics brought lighthearted feeling to U.S. at Ryder Cup

Originally Published: September 21, 2008
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- After a weekend of inspired competition, a single indelible image remains from this 37th Ryder Cup: Thomas Brent "Boo" Weekley galloping down the first fairway Sunday at Valhalla Golf Club doing a "Happy Gilmore" dance, riding his driver between his legs and whipping it like a quarter horse.

It was completely preposterous.

And it was totally, wonderfully Weekley.

What professional golfer does that? At the Ryder Cup? On Sunday at the Ryder Cup? Only one man could be so cluelessly, cleverly cavalier.

Boo-S-A! Boo-S-A! Boo-S-A!

"That's one of the greatest things I've ever seen in my life," American captain Paul Azinger said.

"I couldn't stop laughing," teammate Jim Furyk said.

Volumes have been written on the withering pressure of this event, particularly America's tense susceptibility to that pressure in recent years. If you asked around, one of the most common explanations for the United States' recent Ryder Cup futility was its inability to play loose and enjoy the moment.

And then along comes brother Boo, turning this cauldron of intensity into an episode of "Hee Haw." What started with that slapstick moment on the first hole ended on the 16th in an 8-under-par shellacking of Oliver Wilson that helped spur America to a resounding 16½-11½ Ryder Cup upset victory.

"I felt like I just had to do it to loosen it up a little bit," Weekley said. "... And it's just my nature to be a little goofy anyway."

[+] EnlargeKenny Perry
AP Photo/Ed ReinkeKenny Perry hugs his father after the 48-year-old clinched his singles match victory Sunday at Valhalla Golf Club during the 37th Ryder Cup.
Goofy was glorious here this weekend, and don't think it didn't matter. Don't think victory at Valhalla wasn't spurred in large part by a daily dose of Weekley levity. Don't think his act didn't play perfectly with the predominantly Southern crowd that turned this compelling three-day golf match into an SEC football game.

The fans took their cue from Boo, the arm-waving, fist-clenching, tobacco-chewing, shot-making, cheerleading, Westwood-frosting, syntax-fracturing tour de force at this Ryder Cup.

Book smart? No. Course smart? Yes. The favorite of every American golf fan today? Yeah, buddy.

"It ain't about me," Weekley said. "There ain't no 'I' on this team. ... We're playing for that flag."

Europe may never be the same after enduring the onslaught of an unshaven, paunchy, balding, wisecracking jokester from the Florida panhandle. The English language may never be the same after Weekley introduced us to the word, "compatibate." Hell, golf itself may never be the same.

The sport's supercilious image was dealt a populist blow by this American Ryder Cup team, specifically Weekley and his country cousins, Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes. Ain't a silver spoon among 'em, except in their tackle boxes.

The combined population of Weekley's hometown (Milton, Fla.), Perry's hometown (Franklin, Ky.) and Holmes' hometown (Campbellsville, Ky.) is roughly 28,000. Their combined record in this Ryder Cup: a dominant 6-1-3. Their combined record on Sunday, with the Cup up for grabs: 3-0.

They grew up small-town humble, and went on to become three guys who can hit the hell out of the golf ball. Bring them together, wrap them in the flag, put them on Southern soil and watch them turn this hillbilly hoedown into an international beatdown.

For Perry, this was a valedictory moment he had willed into being. In January he was ranked 110th in the world, but he set his goal to make the Ryder Cup team -- to the exclusion of any other personal glory. Perry skipped qualifying for the U.S. Open and backed out of the British Open to focus on these three days in his home state, at a course where he had a history after losing the 1996 PGA Championship in agonizing fashion.

At age 48, this might be his last moment on golf's center stage.

"This is it, I'm going out on top -- I'm 48, and I don't have the nerves for this anymore," Perry said, presumably joking, but you never know. "This was my dream, it really was. You know what, it came true for me. It all fell my way. The team won. I've got great teammates. I'll cherish this the rest of my life."

Holmes finds himself on the opposite end of the spectrum: 26 years old and a Ryder Cup rookie who rose to the occasion despite occasionally hitting the ball halfway to Jupiter. Holmes paired with Weekley twice to score 1½ points, then closed out Soren Hansen on Sunday with three birdies on the final four holes in a match that had a ton riding on the outcome.

"He hit it quite long," Hansen said. "But quite long is probably an understatement. He hit it really long."

Holmes' last power shot of the day was on the 17th hole, rocketing a drive that helped doom Hansen. After putting out for America's penultimate point, Holmes found his way into the embrace of his father, Maurice.

"I told him I was proud of him," Maurice Holmes said. "He was just kind of floating around."

Back home 80 miles away, they were whooping it up in the $20,000 room at Campbellsville Country Club. That's where some of the men hang out -- not because they pay that much in dues, please. That's what it cost to add that room on to the club.

"They're having one heck of a party," said Holmes' caddy, Brandon Parsons, his childhood friend.

This week, whenever the caddy called his daddy, David Parsons, who coached both him and Holmes in high school golf, he had a Boo Weekley story. He was always making sure the caddies and wives were included in the week's proceedings. And he was the guy who grabbed David Parsons and made sure he got underneath the ropes to join the celebration on the 17th hole Sunday.

"We've adopted Boo," David Parsons said. "He can come to Campbellsville anytime he wants."

Most of America would like to adopt the embraceable everyman. Europe? Maybe not.

The BBC radio feed on Friday described Boo thusly: "I think he's had a few beers in his time. ... He is an archetypal American."

Boo is a yes-sir, no-sir guy who will sign autographs until the last dog dies. But his playing to the crowd became an archetypal pain in the posterior to Lee Westwood. He and Hansen lost one point and halved another against the Holmes-Weekley pairing, and the Brit took great umbrage at Weekley's playing to the crowd before he had to hit.

The fans picked up on it, including the guy who came to the course Sunday dressed in a sheet and jumped out in front of Westwood between holes 5 and 6.

"Booooooo!" the guy yelled, shortly before being ejected from the course.

"He was the one that made me laugh," Westwood said. "All of the abuse that I got was fairly nasty, and that was pretty shameful. That was only a minority, and the crowds were great. I expected them to get behind the American team, which they did, but some people don't know the difference between supporting their team and abusing the opposition team, which is unfortunate."

What truly was unfortunate was the way Europe's big guns played, most notably Sergio Garcia and Westwood (a combined 1½ points for the weekend and no victories). Especially in comparison to the country cousins. Especially Weekley.

He struck the ball with his usual excellence, but augmented that with two incredible sand shots: one on the 15th hole Saturday, launching it from 143 yards out to within 2 feet; the other a holed-out eagle Sunday. And he dropped some bombs with his putter as well.

After whuppin' Euro behind, Weekley celebrated as only he can. He galloped around slapping hands with fans, then joined in the champagne-spraying celebration behind the clubhouse. When he reported to the postevent news conference, the lapel of his suit coat was up and he was double-fisting beers.

I'm telling you, ESPN should give the guy his own reality show.

On Saturday, Weekley said this about the adrenaline surging through him in this competition: "I feel like a dog that somebody done stuck a needle to and it juiced me up like I've been running around a greyhound track chasing one of them bunnies."

On Sunday, someone asked Weekley what the rabbit tasted like now that he'd caught up with it.

"Chicken."

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.