BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Hitting a golf ball seems almost as essential a part of Dana Quigley's daily life as taking a breath and eating. It's rare when he doesn't play 36 holes a day during the offseason, showing the same passion that earned him Ironman status on the Champions Tour.
But when Quigley steps to the No. 1 tee Friday at the Allianz Championship, the first shot will not be as easy as taking a step. Then again, Quigley's world has been turned upside down since his 27-year-old son Devon was involved in a near-fatal car accident Dec. 1. While his son remains at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach in a coma, Dana and the rest of his family decided he would make his return to competitive golf this week 30 miles away at Broken Sound.
"As a golf pro, all you're thinking about on the first tee is getting that first shot in the fairway," Quigley said. "I'm going to be thinking about a lot of different things. I can't prepare myself for it and I don't know how to handle it. But we had a family meeting and everyone decided that I should play. I know Devon would want me to play."
It won't matter if Quigley, the Champions Tour's Player of the Year in 2005, shoots a 69 or a 96. Really, it doesn't. This week isn't about putting numbers on a scorecard to make a paycheck.
"Whether I play well or not is insignificant," Quigley said. "I need to be out there with the guys who have supported me and to visit with the guys I haven't had a chance to see.
I know it's going to be an emotional week, but I want to show the world you can live with this kind of thing."
Golf, and its familiar routine, has provided Dana a chance to cope with the tragedy. Just as he does every offseason, Dana is among the first to tee off every morning at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach. Sometimes it's in the company of his pastors from Christ Fellowship. Only now Dana doesn't stick around for a second round, leaving to be with Devon at St. Mary's when visiting hours open at noon. That morning round gives Dana a chance to "keep my mind occupied."
He usually makes two trips to the hospital every day to be by Devon's bedside. Dana ends each day by posting an update on his son's Caring Bridge page (to see it, go to www.caringbridge.org and type in Devon's name). "It's great therapy for me and gives me a chance to let all of America see how Devon is doing," Dana said.
Typically, Quigley didn't ease his way back onto the Champions Tour this week. Instead of playing in just one pro-am, as he's required, he decided to play in all four of them.
And instead of keeping his head down and trying to concentrate on his game, he's looking around and walking up to other players who simply don't know what to say. Tom Randall, the tour's chaplain who will serve this week as Quigley's caddie -- a job sometimes held by Devon -- said it's Dana who ends up doing most of the consoling.
"Dana has been a rock," Randall said. "You can see how sad some of the people's faces are when they walk up and talk to him, and Dana ends up being the one offering encouragement by saying, 'Don't worry, Devon's going to be all right.' "
Devon faces an extremely difficult future. Dana was told his son probably wouldn't survive the first night after his car collided into the back of a semi-truck in Riviera Beach, leaving Devon with massive brain injuries. More than two months later, Devon is still fighting. He has been transferred from St. Mary's neurological ICU unit to a regular hospital room, but he remains in a coma that was not medically induced. He is almost to the point where he can breathe without the help of a ventilator and Tuesday a therapist took Devon outside in a specially-designed chair for the first time since the accident.
The family hopes to send Devon to a specialized rehabilitation clinic, but must wait for him to become more aware and active. That could be days or weeks.
"We see changes almost every day," Dana says. "It's really good for us when we see his eyes occasionally open; we know something is going on. We are all still very hopeful and optimistic. We were told it's going to be a long process. Well, it's a long process."
Asked how he was dealing with a parent's worst nightmare, Dana didn't mince words.
"I'm probably better than some expected, but not as well as I'd like to be," he said. "It breaks my heart every minute of every day. We are really counting on God to pull off a miracle and bring him home to us."
The 64-year-old Quigley has relied on his faith and incredible support from the golf community to help him deal with the trauma of the last 10 weeks. There have been almost 100,000 views on Devon's Caring Bridge page. The nurses at St. Mary's said they have never seen so many visitors visit Devon and every night there is a gathering of family, friends and fellow golf pros at the Quigley house to provide additional support.
"I told Dana that this is finest hour, the way he's handled this," said former Champions Tour pro Ed Dougherty, who along with his wife, Carol, has cooked several dinners for the Quigleys. "I hope playing this week gives his mind a little break from what he's been dealing with the last two months. We don't have children, but I just can't imagine what he's going through."
Dana has agreed to do a couple of press conferences before the tournament and he agreed to do a live interview on the Golf Exchange radio show last Sunday. His outgoing personality makes it impossible for him to stay under cover.
"I'm going to feel like Freddie Couples this week," Quigley said with a laugh.
Yes, Quigley will be getting plenty of attention this week. They will notice Quigley has new facial hair -- a grey goatee.
"I made a promise to Devon that night in the ER," Dana said. "Devon could never grow a goatee, so I told him I would grow one and then shave it off when he wakes up."
Dana said he will probably play a few more Champions Tour events, but it all depends on Devon's progress. This week, he knows it's going to be difficult to concentrate on a game that has provided him with so much.
"My mind wanders a lot," he said. "It's not important how I play. It's more important how I act and how I can show people how you can deal with and keep living your life."
Dana has won 11 titles, posted 128 top-10 finishes and earned $14.7 million during his 14 years on the Champions Tour. But one thinks this week will be the most memorable tournament of his life.