PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Dana Quigley's junior partner has some mighty big shoes to fill this week at the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach.
|How Dana Quigley has fared|
In the first edition of the tournament that allows Champions Tour pros a chance to play with a junior golfer, Quigley played with none other than Paula Creamer. The pair didn't win the pro-junior competition in 2004, but within a year both were earning some impressive titles. Creamer grabbed Rookie of the Year honors on the LPGA Tour in 2005 after two wins and became the youngest player to earn a spot on the Solheim Cup team.
Quigley, on the other hand, became the oldest player on the Champions Tour to capture the Arnold Palmer Award for being the leading money winner on the circuit and also won Player of the Year honors after two wins. Can the wizened vet take credit for giving Creamer any career-making advice in '05?
"Just take it to the bank," Quigley joked. "I knew when I played with her that week she was the real deal. She was only about 17 and she was so good. Now I send her notes after she wins to congratulate her and say keep having fun with it. Stay grounded, keep having fun and it's all going to come to you."
Last year Quigley didn't play with Creamer, but he did win the pro-junior title, teaming up with partner Scott Langley as the duo turned in a string of late birdies and a 9-under 63 to win by a stroke.
"I've had three great juniors here -- I had a kid from San Antonio two years ago that was really cool. I enjoy it," he said." The kids all dress to the nines and they all look like the pros they are emulating and it's always fun to watch them play and try their heart out to try to help out the Tour pro so it's a great week."
Dressed in sky blue pants (or perhaps he'd prefer them labeled as University of Rhode Island blue for his alma mater) and a peach-colored Vineyard Vines shirt, Quigley resembles his nattily-dressed young counterparts. The Massachusetts native lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., now, but still roots hard for his Boston Red Sox, who currently lead the American League East by five games over the New York Yankees.
"We just got swept by the Yankees, but New York's coming to Boston on Sept. 14 and my son will be at all three games," Quigley said. "We're in good shape. We've got a five-game lead I don't think there's any stress at all in Red Sox land."
His own season hasn't equaled the success of his beloved Red Sox, as the 60-year-old Tour ironman -- until 2005, Quigley hadn't missed a tournament in nine years -- has recently seen the years and injuries catch up to him.
"This has been the worst year of my 10. I'm 60 now and I think I hit a little bit of a physical wall when I turned 60," he said." I have some blood pressure problems and now I have some prostate problems might be surfacing. There's been a few distractions."
But a late-season run may be just what the doctor ordered. Quigley became part of Tour history last week when he and six others participated in the largest playoff ever to determine the winner of the Boeing Classic. Denis Watson prevailed over the rest by making eagle on the second playoff hole, finishing the tournament as the sun was quickly setting.
"We played No. 7 almost in the dark. The balls were everywhere. It was a hole you really needed to hit a really good wedge shot in there and mine kind of checked on the hill and didn't get to the hole, but it was fun. The balls were flying everywhere and I was the shortest hitter of the seven guys on a par 5 that really favors the long hitters. I was at a little bit of a disadvantage but really happy to be in the playoff," said Quigley, who earned just his third top-10 of the season.
But he's off to a strong start at Pebble Beach this week, making five birdies and a bogey to finish the day with a 4-under 68 to put him in a tie for sixth.
The leaderboard after the first round is Del Monte-heavy on top -- with 78 juniors, 156 amateurs and 78 Champions Tour players, the tournament is played on both Pebble Beach Golf Links and Del Monte Golf Course. Co-tournament leader Morris Hatalsky -- who shot 65 along with Bruce Vaughan -- and Tom Watson (tied for fourth) were the lone Pebble Beach standouts on Friday atop the standings, with the rest of the leaders coming from Del Monte.
That's not to say that Del Monte is easy, especially with the added stress to perform well on a course that's not as windy as Pebble Beach.
"In the rotation with (Pebble Beach) twice and there once, you don't necessarily have to go real low at Del Monte but you can't go above par," he said. "You have to post a decent score at Del Monte and it actually adds to the pressure because you know you have to go low and you have to make some birdies and sometimes it actually frustrates you because the greens are still tricky over there.
"It's a little easier than Pebble, there's no question about it. We didn't have any wind over there."
It was an especially sunny day at the Pebble Beach course and Quigley hopes conditions remain so for his next two rounds in the tournament, where his best finish came in a tie for 11th in 2005.
"Pebble goes according to the weather, I'm afraid to say. If we catch it a day tomorrow like it has been today the course can score on us," he said. "It's not overly long, you've just got to be overly precise with your irons. But it's a course you don't fear in nice weather, for sure."