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The Iron Man

Dana Quigley, an unsuccessful journeyman on the PGA Tour, has played in more than 200 consecutive events on the Champions Tour
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Cuban Models, May/June 03

Dana Quigley plays golf. He has played every single Champions Tour event he has been eligible for since he won his first tournament in 1997. When he isn't playing in a tournament, he's playing somewhere, with friends, in a pro-am or with his wife, Angie. "There's hardly a day goes by I don't play golf," says Quigley. "I love this game. Always have. There isn't anything else I'd rather be doing than playing golf. And the funny thing is, the older I get, the better I seem to get. Isn't that something?" Isn't Dana Quigley something? Now in his seventh season on the Champions Tour (formerly known as the Seniors Tour), Quigley has won eight tournaments and more than $8 million. So far this year, he's been in four tournaments, and finished in the top 10 three times, including a win at the MasterCard Championship in Hawaii. He's got a share of a private jet, an endorsement deal with Te-Amo, a boat, a big house and cash in the bank. It's a miracle, or is it? "The miracle is that I'm alive to be able to do this," says Quigley. "The miracle is that I survived this long, got myself together. I've got a whole new life, really, and I'm not going to blow it this time."

 

The Champions Tour holds a unique place in sports. Where else can an athlete turn 50 and suddenly be presented with the opportunity to make millions? There are so many tales of washed-up or little-known pros discovering that at 50 they can compete with players who used to blow them away. Players who, presented with a second chance to follow a dream, take the full advantage. And no one has taken greater advantage than Dana Quigley.

From 1978 to 1982 Quigley played the PGA Tour, sporadically, and he got into the occasional tournament from 1983 to 1996. He did little more than hang on to his career by his thumbs, the weakest possible grip. He made little money and almost no impression. If he led the PGA Tour in any one aspect, it was partying. He didn't have that much to celebrate, never won a PGA Tour event, but he would party at any time, any place. If he made the cut, he would party, which assuredly meant he would play badly on the weekend. As much as he was drawn to the game, he didn't respect it enough. Worse, he didn't respect himself. Lack of respect and lack of sobriety was a combination sure to kill a career. It was a toxic mix sure to poison a man's talent, and it did.

"Back then, I would pretend to be a golfer," says Quigley. "I had such low self-esteem that I wouldn't practice next to someone like Jack Nicklaus. I just didn't believe I belonged in the same company. Then I went ahead and proved that I didn't. I made a mess of my PGA Tour career. Made a mess of a lot of things, really."

On February 1, 1990, Quigley made a decision, a right-hand turn off Forest Hill Boulevard in West Palm Beach, Florida, onto I-95 North that would change his life.

After the 1982 PGA season, Quigley left regular Tour competition to take the job as head professional of the Crestwood Country Club in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. As a club professional, he was a tournament terror, winning a bunch of state opens in Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island for more than a decade. He was named New England PGA Player of the Year seven times. There was no denying his talent on the club level.

He could party and still beat everybody. In the winter he would go to Florida and beat those club pros all over again. He would play every day, sometimes 36 holes or more, then drink beer and play gin. Every day. His drinking led to two drunken driving incidents, and a failed attempt at sobriety after the second one.

Some nights he would join the pros for drinks and dinner. On that February 1, he was headed toward a restaurant in West Palm Beach where he would have a couple of cocktails, maybe a bottle of wine, a steak and a lot of laughs. But just as he got to the I-95 overpass, he made the hardest right turn of his life, a 60-mile-an-hour swing away from the party life and toward a new one. He didn't know it right that moment, but he had also set a course for future success on the Champions Tour.

"I was following a friend to a restaurant and it dawned on me I couldn't keep drinking like this," says Quigley. "I was into the socialness of being a drunk. I still don't think my body or mind craved it. I drank because everyone else around me drank. When I got home that night, I didn't say anything to my [first] wife. I really didn't make a decision to quit drinking. It wasn't like I thought I would never have another drink. I didn't have any set goals about not drinking. Then the next day we played golf and I had a nonalcoholic beer and got kidded about it. I did the same thing the next day. I was getting along without alcohol. It became a habit, then it became sort of a pride thing. I haven't looked in a bottle since. It was the most important thing I ever did. It was probably the first unselfish thing I ever did."


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