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On PGA TOUR Champions, it’s Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum together again

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Heath Slocum (left) and Boo Weekley in 2007 at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup at the Mission Hills Golf Resort. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Heath Slocum (left) and Boo Weekley in 2007 at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup at the Mission Hills Golf Resort. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

    Written by Jeff Babineau @JeffBabz62

    NAPLES, Fla. – There are lots of places that can hold high school reunions these days. A VFW lodge, large cafeterias, hotel ballrooms, maybe even a Chili’s at the local mall. Shoot, if the weather is cooperative, an outdoor picnic area will do.

    It was barely noon on Wednesday at the PGA TOUR Champions’ Chubb Classic presented by SERVPRO, a southwest Florida sun rising high into the sky, when the Milton (Fla.) High School Class of ’92 decided to get together.

    For Boo Weekley, a relative Champions newbie, and Heath Slocum, ready to make his first Champions start having turned 50 on Feb. 3, it was nice to be together on a golf course again.

    Neither counts tiny Milton (population 7,000), tucked away in the Florida Panhandle, as home any longer. Slocum is married, has two teenage children and now lives in Georgia; Weekley, who is divorced, has moved from Milton to nearby Jay, Florida, to live closer to his own children.

    Wednesday, it was as if the two never left each other’s side, recounting their days playing freshman basketball together before pursuing a path in golf, eventually becoming PGA TOUR champions. Slocum won four times, including a FedExCup Playoffs event (2009 Barclays) and Weekley three, winning at Harbour Town Golf Links back-to-back in 2007-08.

    Heath Slocum wins the 2009 Barclays

    “We were at the Future Masters (in Alabama) as kids, I met one other guy we were friends with, and he pointed over and said, ‘That guy right there, his name is Boo, he’ll be in a class with us,’” Slocum recalled. Slocum looked over to see a young Weekley, new to the game, wearing old classic golf shoes – untied, of course – with no socks, teeing off.

    Slocum can still remember the thunderous sound made when the ball left Weekley’s club. It was just, well, different.

    “Obviously, we became more like brothers than friends,” Slocum said. Each would hone his game on the DP Tour, a developmental circuit operated by Heath’s father, Jack Slocum, who was a club professional. “We just grew up together. It’s been amazing ... juniors all the way through, every single level, and now we are here again. We’re pretty lucky.”

    Before long, a younger riser from Milton, a left-hander who sometimes showed up wearing knickers, would jump in to follow behind Weekley and Slocum, who in turn had followed one established before them by players such as U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate and Allen Miler, who grew up in Pensacola, and Joe Durant.

    “They paved the way for us to think that we could even do it,” said Durant, who won four times on the PGA TOUR and four more times on PGA TOUR Champions. That young left-hander in their wake who would follow Durant, Weekley, Slocum and Co. onto the PGA TOUR was Bubba Watson, who became a two-time Masters champion.

    Durant is a little older – he’ll turn 60 this April – but is another elite ball-striker from Pensacola, and played a lot of golf with Weekley and Slocum. “Cuzzy,” Durant shouted over to Weekley on Wednesday, motioning to him near the putting green when he saw him.

    Weekley laughed, then shouted back, “Hey, let’s get a picture of the three of us together. Two-and-a-half rednecks.” He laughed, then explained the fraction: “Heath, he moved to Atlanta.”

    ‘I love life’ Walk and talk with Boo Weekley

    All jokes aside, Slocum, who last played a full schedule on the PGA TOUR in 2015, thought his 50th birthday might never get here. It just seemed to take so long. He has tried to do what he can to keep his game sharp, making a few starts on the Korn Ferry Tour, but there is no substitute for quality, solid competition, and that’s what he has missed the most. He cannot wait to go up against the Steve Strickers, Steven Alkers and Ernie Elses of the senior golf universe.

    “We have an age limit, or you have to be a certain age (50),” Slocum said, “but it is the best of that age. There’s no better way to test yourself. That’s how I felt when I played on TOUR. I just loved competing, and we’re fortunate enough to do it against the very best.”

    Slocum’s biggest strength when he played the PGA TOUR was how straight he hit it, and there are few driving tests on PGA TOUR Champions as demanding as Tiburón Golf Club’s Black Course. That is the main reason why Bernhard Langer, the circuit’s winningest all-time player (46 Champions victories), has won five times at Chubb, and was gunning for a third consecutive title and sixth overall before tearing his Achilles shortly before the tournament.

    “I played yesterday (at Chubb) with Heath, and I told him, ‘Now I feel old,’” Durant said, smiling. “I told Boo the same thing last fall. It’s great. I’m so glad that those guys are out here, and still playing, and still enjoying it.

    “Heath looked good. He still hits that nice little tight draw that he always did. I think he’ll do well. You know how it is out here; you’ve just got to make a bunch of birdies. This is a perfect place for him, right out of the chute. He’s excited to play.”

    Weekley, for one, has no concerns about his old point guard from Milton’s freshman basketball team. To him, Slocum is as dependable as they come, and he will do fine in his rookie venture.

    “I see Heath playing well this year, and doing what he needs to do to succeed,” Weekley said of his childhood pal. “I wouldn’t put it past him winning sometime once he gets his stride out here.

    “He’s a gamer.”

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