Published June 25. 2005 6:01AM Gadsden Times

Some folks call him a `Slingblade'

gadsden times / tammy mckinley

Jerry `Slingblade' Hines hits his ball out of a sandtrap during the Left-Handed Golf Tournament at Twin Bridges Friday.

By Jimmy Smothers
Times Sports Editor

His name is Jerry Hines, but when he speaks he sounds like Billy Bob Thornton. He's in our town this weekend competing in the annual Alabama State Left-Handed Golf Tournament, getting more attention off the course than when he's playing golf.

"There's a pretty neat story there," said Daryl Johnson, who is credited with dubbing Hines with the catchy nickname - Slingblade.

"When he played in his first left-handed tournament he was such a nice guy that everyone was kind of drawn to him. When he talked, you'd think of Billy Bob, who played Slingblade in the movie. So everyone just kind of adopted the name. But no one called him that to his face."

Johnson said he didn't think that was right.

"He was such a nice guy I knew he wouldn't mind, so I went up to him and told him I had nicknamed him something," Johnson said.

"Can you say what it is in public?" he asked.

"Sure, have you ever seen the movie Slingblade?"


"Well, ask around, you sound exactly like the guy in the movie."

Johnson said he got him to look at the movie and he agreed.

"Everyone calls him `Sling' or `Slingblade' now, he even introduces himself as Slingblade," Johnson said. "He's a good guy, just a good ol' down to earth boy who has made a lot of good friends among the left-handed golfers."

Slingblade said he is so country that when the place he grew up in became too crowded he moved north to Cullman County.

"I'm back out in the country, living in Walter, which is about halfway way between Holly Pond and Hanceville," he said. "My place is about three miles from the monastery but I've never been there."

He is a master plumber by trade, but makes his living today by remodeling houses. He has done work in Gadsden, but is currently working in the Birmingham area.

He played sports at Thompson High School, graduating the year before Lyle Darnell started coaching there. After a hitch in the Navy, where he wound up with tattoos on each arm, he began making a living on a diary farm. That's what his father (by adoption) did for a living. He real father was a plumber.

"When I was 12 or 13 I helped my grandfather put plumbing in our house. My job was to do all the crawling under the house. I said then I'd never be a plumber," he said. "But guess what happened?"

Slingblade explained that he was working 12-hour days on the dairy farm and never got to see his first son play sports. So when a second son was born seven years later, he decided to change his career so he'd have more time to watch his young son grow up.

"I got in the plumbing business and still had to work 12-hours a day," he said. "That son was later killed in the army after serving eight years."

Back in the `70s Hines started playing golf, but he didn't have time to play regularly so he gave it up after a few years. He only resumed playing when his wife died four years ago.

"When she was living we had six horses," he said. "For recreation we'd ride horses a lot and would do some camping out, etc. But when she passed, I wasn't interested in doing that anymore. So I started playing golf again. I really love the game, but can't hit the ball very well."

He enjoys the game so much that he competed in last year's state left-handers tournament less than three months after suffering a heart attack. He finished third in the B Flight of the Open division.

"I could have been first but lost a ball, made a mistake and it cost me four strokes," he said.

Despite his love for the game, he doesn't have the years of experience a lot of the players his age have.

"I'm basically a bogey golfer," he said. "On my home course in Fairview I can shoot in the 80s. But when I go to a strange course, I usually shoot in the 90s. I came over here and played two practice rounds last week and shot 98 and 99. That wasn't very good."

One of the guys who played with him said he could have gotten the nickname from the way he sometimes swings his golf club. Johnson said, "I'm not going to comment on that, you better ask him."

Slingblade just laughed, which he does a lot.

"When I was growing up I had another nickname. People in high school called me mama. I don't know why that came about either. Maybe it was because I wore my hair long and combed back on each side, although it was short on top."

In addition to the nicknames, Hines said he doesn't really understand why he plays golf left-handed.

"It's about the only thing I do left-handed," he said. "When I played baseball and softball, I batted right-handed. But swinging the golf club left-handed just seems natural. I'm kind of like, right-handed when I do things with one hand and left-handed when I need two hands. Except for when I batted in baseball."

Other than his nickname, he draws attention by his "trucker's billfold" that is chained to his belt.

"Everyone kids me about it, asking if I have a lot of money in it," he said. "I tell them they can have the billfold if they'll pay the bills I have in it. I'll just keep what little money there is."

He said he started carrying it when he went into the construction business to keep track of his bills.

"I had to turn in all the bills at the end of a job, so that was a means of keeping up with everything. I know a lot of guys who keep their papers in little brief cases, but they are always losing them or getting them stolen. I've never lost this billfold or had it stolen," he said.

He pointed out another thing.

"When my grandchildren were babies they always cried when I'd get up close and talk to them," he said. "I didn't know at the time that it was my hoarse voice that scared them."

Now he does. He also realizes why people call him Slingblade.

"He just loves it," said Johnson.