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Boo Weekley back in Hawaii, with a hunger for golf

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    Boo Weekley follows his drive off the first tee box during the first round of the Tournament of Champions golf tournament on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Kapalua, Hawaii. One of the most colorful characters on the PGA Tour, Weekley is proud to be among the 30 winners at Kapalua for the start of a new year. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

KAPALUA, Maui >>The one culinary credo of Boo Weekley is to never eat or drink anything he can’t pronounce.

But he doesn’t have to be able to spell it. “That wouldn’t leave a lot,” he said.

And that’s why he didn’t mind giving up his preferred choice of beer for what he calls — and spells — a “My Tie” when he returned to Maui for the Tournament of Champions. He could have done without that little umbrella, but he’ll just add that to his list of new experiences in this wacky and wonderful life that golf has afforded.

One of the most colorful characters on the PGA Tour, he is proud to be among the 30 winners at Kapalua for the start of a new year.

Truth is, Weekley never thought he would last this long.

“That’s just the way I am,” he said. “I get tired of something, and then I want to go try something else.”

It seems like a long time ago when the 40-year-old from the back woods of the Florida Panhandle first made it through Q-school wearing tennis shoes and rain pants (regular britches gave him a rash), and telling folk he went to ABAC (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College), as if the acronym were as familiar as UCLA.

He didn’t last but one year on the PGA Tour, and then returned to the minor leagues for four seasons before he made his way back, and this time stayed. He won at Hilton Head two straight years. He played on the Ryder Cup team in 2008, galloping off the first tee with his driver in a scene right out of “Happy Gilmore.”

This is his third trip to Kapalua, and one he relishes the most.

Weekley tried to play through a shoulder injury a few years ago and it nearly cost him his livelihood. He failed to make it out of Q-school in 2011, played the following year main on sponsor exemptions and regained his card in the final event of 2012 when he tied for fifth at Disney. So to win again last year at Colonial, to make it back to the Tour Championship for the first time in six years, to book a flight to Hawaii for the start of a new year, well, he was just pleased as punch.

“It proved to myself I can come back after a drawn-out injury that could have been prevented if I would have stopped and took care of it instead of playing through it,” he said, referring to a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

The idea of being forgotten was never a concern. Golf already has given him more than he expected.

Weekley was living in a trailer when he first got his PGA Tour card in 2001. His last-place finish at East Lake in September pushed his career earnings over $11 million. He now lives on five acres in Jay, Fla., not far from the 460 acres he has for hunting and fishing. He also has a couple of townhouses on the beach, and another lot near the water that he might develop. Golf paid for all that. If not for his two sons, 12 and 5, he might still be living in a trailer.

“You don’t need much, just a place to keep your clothes,” he said.

Weekley is as much known for what comes out of his mouth as the scores he puts on a card.

Like that first time he went to Scotland, playing at Loch Lomond ahead of the British Open at Carnoustie. He was paired one day with Paul Lawrie and while making small talk, asked him if he had qualified for the Open, unaware that Lawrie had won the claret jug in 1999.

The one regret was the time he was caught using foul language on Golf Channel during the first year of the Puerto Rico Open — he forgot the name of the tournament, referring to it as “that place Chi Chi Rodriguez is from.” Weekley says he was fined, and he was embarrassed at the prospect of his grandparents and kids hearing it.

After all these years, phrases like “Thank you” and “Yes, sir” roll easily off his tongue.

Last year in a restaurant in Houston, Weekley ordered seven pounds of crawfish (as an appetizer) and ate them as easily as a bag of potato chips. While the pile of crawfish was impressive, so was the sight of his cap resting on his knee beneath the table. Weekley doesn’t sit down for a meal in a restaurant wearing a cap. His parents taught him better than that.

His idol on the PGA Tour is Steve Stricker.

Weekley sees a small comparison because Stricker also disappeared from golf for several years before making his way back in a big way, rising to No. 2 in the world at one point and becoming a regular in the Ryder Cup. He’s more impressed with how Stricker puts a priority on his time at home (not to mention a deer stand).

“He’s somebody I’d like to follow,” Weekley said. “He’s always positive. We need people like that, instead of people who embellish who they are, what they want to be and who they ain’t. It ain’t about money out here. It’s about camaraderie and respect for one another.”

Weekley probably won’t get to No. 2 in the world. He has never been higher than No. 23.

A decent end to 2013 moved him up to No. 54. He played three times — Malaysia, Shanghai and Sea Island. That’s right — Boo does Asia. And he likes it.

Even the food.

“I ate a lot of rice,” he said. “I like rice, as long as they let me put my own stuff on it. You can bring me white rice or brown rice, just let me doctor it up. Don’t be putting any of that Fung-man-egg-choo stuff in there.”

That’s not how it’s pronounced. Which is probably why he didn’t want to eat it.

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