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Solid play cheers up Weekley

In a logjam for eighth place, the rookie can make his biggest check today.

By JOHN SCHWARB, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 22, 2002

In a logjam for eighth place, the rookie can make his biggest check today.

PALM HARBOR -- Boo Weekley stood in the late-afternoon rain, having a post-round plug of tobacco and signing autographs under an umbrella held by his wife.

He had just shot a so-so round of even 71 on the Copperhead at the Westin Innisbrook Resort, but with the possible exception of tournament leader K.J. Choi there was not a happier player in town.

"It's just fun having my family back with me again on the road," Weekley said. "You know, I think that's got a lot to do with how I play."

Weekley, the qualifying school graduate and Milton native who made headlines at the start of the season for his rural demeanor and unusual quirks, has not played well. In 19 tournaments he made four cuts to earn $70,246.

This week, under a torturing sun, he feels at home and is playing like it. Weekley not only made the cut, he is among 12 tied for eighth at 4 under.

Today, barring a particularly bad round, he likely will cash his biggest check this year.

"It's important to me right now, because we're a little slow on money," Weekley said. "Then again, money ain't everything, it's all about the happiness of being out here playing."

It's clear Weekley is enjoying this week, with not only family and friends but many well-wishing strangers who know his story.

"Yessir ... thank you ... ya'll have a good day," Weekley said to passers-by after the round. In other tournaments he might catch odd looks for his sneakers and accent, but not at the Tampa Bay Classic.

Spectators appreciate the story of the one-time cotton and soybean picker and former chemical plant worker. Saturday he drew a good playing partner in Mark Brooks.

"He's a real nice fellow. He ain't snotty or snooty like some of them are out here," Weekley said.

The season has been a learning experience for the 29-year-old, getting used to other players but more importantly the courses. To keep his card, Weekley likely needs to make more than $400,000 the rest of the season, and even he concedes that might not be possible.

"Your plan is to make the top 125. If you don't, you go back to Q-school and you start all over again," said Weekley, who is 201st on the money list. "There's been many people out here that's had to do it, why can't I?

"I've learned more about the competition, more about what to expect, so the next time I get here, there shouldn't be no excuses."

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