When Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey finally got his elusive first win on the Nationwide Tour three weeks ago, it virtually assured he'll return to the PGA Tour in 2011.
More than that, however, it meant Gainey proved to himself that he can win.
"It feels better than satisfying," Gainey said recently. "This has been a long time coming.
"The past three months I've really worked hard on my short game and it's improved. I finally started making some putts and it finally happened. It makes me feel good that all that work paid off."
Gainey, who lives in Camden, S.C., is the ultimate grinder. He has a homemade game that accounts for the two gloves he wears while playing and a swing that's made him a steady ball-striker but spotty on the greens.
After earning a measure of fame on The Golf Channel's "Big Break" show, Gainey qualified for the PGA Tour in 2008 but missed 13 consecutive cuts. He played the weekend just six times in 24 starts, but he did manage to finish second to Davis Love III in the season's final event.
He split time between the big tour and the Nationwide Tour last year, not making much headway, and things weren't going particularly well this year.
Gainey finished third early in the year in the Nationwide event in Panama, but he missed the cut in five of his first eight starts.
When he tied for second at the BMW Charity Pro-Am in Greenville, S.C., Gainey was on to something. Then came the breakthrough victory in the Melwood Prince Georges County Open, vaulting him to second on the Nationwide Tour money list. The top 25 money winners at the end of the year move up to the PGA Tour.
Gainey isn't taking anything for granted, however.
"I've got to worry about this year," he said. "The only thing I've accomplished so far is I finally won a tournament. We still have 17 or 18 tournaments left and a lot can happen.
"I like to look at both sides of things, not just the positive side. I like to expect the unexpected. I want to be prepared. That's why I'm going to play every tournament from here out and still go at it the same way. The ultimate prize is finishing No.1 on the Nationwide Tour. That way you can dictate your schedule next year, not have your schedule dictated to you."
Kerry Haigh, senior director of tournaments for the PGA of America, acknowledged this week that Quail Hollow remains under consideration for hosting a PGA Championship.
"It's no secret that I visited the course during the Quail Hollow Championship," Haigh said. "It was the first time I'd seen it during the event and it lent itself to being a wonderful venue to host a big event.
"Like we do with every potential site, we write a report and talk about it. We have had discussions and continue to talk about future possibilities, but at this point nothing has been finalized other than we're in the process."
Haigh spent some time recently with designer Pete Dye at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course, doing advance work for the 2012 PGA Championship there.
Tournament officials are working to make the layout more user-friendly for spectators, who will have to navigate the dunes so prevalent on the course.
Some changes have already been made to raise tees and fairways to improve views, and Haigh said more work is planned to enhance the experience for players and spectators.
Entries for the Charlotte City Amateur will close Friday. Qualifying will be July 12 and 26 at Pine Island Country Club, with players advancing to the championship Aug. 20-22 at Cedarwood Country Club, Carolina Golf Club and the Quail Hollow Club.
Entries are being accepted for the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour visit to Stonebridge Golf Club near Monroe on July 10-11. Registration, open to girls and boys, will close June30. For more information, go to wwwhjgt.com.
I'm not sure Graeme McDowell has gotten enough credit for winning the U.S. Open, considering all the attention that has focused on how Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els failed to win.
McDowell was the best player at Pebble Beach last week and that's why he wound up hugging the trophy. He jumped to 13th in the world rankings after his second straight victory (McDowell won a European Tour event in Wales three weeks ago).
He said he expects to play a little more in the United States in the future, though the European Tour will remain his base.
If you're wondering how much a sleeve of three Titleist golf balls costs in the pro shop at Pebble Beach, it's $23.82. You can do the math for what a dozen costs.
The Pebble Beach greens got a lot of attention because of how they looked on television and, seeing them up close, they were splotchy. There was grass in the dark spots but some of the greens looked as if they had a rash.
Particularly in the afternoon, they were tough to putt but tournament officials, at least publicly, didn't voice any concern. The players, however, had plenty to say.