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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

(continued from page 1)

It would take seven more years before Quigley would become eligible for the Champions Tour. Though he could see a second chance at glory coming, his low self-esteem still was a shortcoming. His brother Paul encouraged him to give the Champions Tour a shot. To do so, Quigley still needed a booster shot, and he got one by seeing noted sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella on the recommendation of longtime friend and PGA Tour player Brad Faxon. Driving down to Florida for the 1996ñ97 snowbird season, Quigley stopped to see Rotella at his Virginia office. What Rotella told him was simple but necessary: You have the talent and the competitiveness, you belong to an elite group of players; there is no reason why you can't be successful on the Champions Tour. Three days later, Quigley won a club pro event in Florida. The switch had been turned on.

If there is anyone who knew how good Dana Quigley was, it was fellow club professional Jim Albus. Albus was one of the Champions Tour's best stories himself when, as the head pro at the Piping Rock Club on Long Island, he won the 1991 Mazda Senior Players Championship, earning himself a spot on the Tour that he has never relinquished. Albus had gone up against Quigley for the better part of two decades in winter tournaments in Florida and had seen firsthand how talented he was.

In April of 1997, just after Quigley turned 50, Albus was paired with Bob Charles in the PGA Seniors' Championship at the PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. When Albus spotted Quigley, playing in his first senior event, on an adjoining green, he just had to say something to Charles.

"You see that guy over there on 13?" Albus said. "That guy is going to win out here and fast. His name is Dana Quigley. He's a club pro I've known for a long time, and he' really good. If he gets qualified to play out here, he'll win."

"Never heard of him," said Charles.

It wouldn't be long before he did, and Jim Albus knew it would happen.

"Dana was a terrific club professional, dominating the Florida club tournaments for years," says Albus. "He was beating guys half his age. He was a very solid player in every aspect of the game. It was just a matter of him getting a spot to play [on the Champions Tour]. If he got it, I knew he would win."

Through most of the 1997 season, Quigley got into tournaments on sponsor exemptions or through the Monday qualifying round. In August, he was the low qualifier for the Northville Long Island Classic. By Sunday afternoon, after winning a three-hole playoff from Jay Sigel, Quigley had won his first Champions Tour event, earning $150,000 and year's exemption on tour. It was an incredibly exciting afternoon, one that would then turn incredibly bittersweet. He had visited his critically ill father, Wally, in the hospital after the qualifying round, and had doubts as to whether he should even try to play in the tournament. But his father and his brother Paul insisted that playing in the tournament was the right thing to do.

So there was Quigley, flush from victory, holding the trophy, kissing Angie, at the pinnacle of his golf career, when he got a phone call from Paul. During the back nine, just after Quigley had taken the lead, his father had died. Quigley bent down to the ground, cell phone in one hand, the other hand trying to wipe the tears from his face. Angie was rubbing his back and whispering into his ear. The line between joy and sorrow had never been drawn so fine. "It was the best day and the worst day of my life," recalls Quigley. "I vowed right there I would play the Tour for my father. I wasn't going to miss a tournament if I could help it." And he hasn't missed a Champions Tour event he was eligible for since that win on Long Island, a string of well over 200.

He's getting better, too. He won the MasterCard Championship to begin the 2003 season, pocketing the biggest paycheck of his life, $250,000. "There's a feeling that once you hit 55 out here, that your game goes downhill," says Quigley, who is 56. "I think Hale Irwin has shown a lot of people that isn't true and I hope to show a lot of people it isn't true. I still have my length, I'm hitting the ball a little higher and landing it a little softer. I think what might be the most important thing for me is managing my game. I've learned not to hit the hero shots anymore, certainly not on Friday and Saturday. I don't try to hit shots where the odds are 10-1 against. I just play my game and see if it's good enough."

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