Calm conditions yield low scores, especially by leaders Dana Quigley and Mike Hill.
By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2002
LUTZ -- Dana Quigley makes golf a part of his day like food and water. There is no getting away from it, no living without it. Most people yearn for a few rounds a month. Quigley can barely remember the last day he wasn't on a course.
He'll have a difficult time forgetting Friday.
|[Times photo: Kinfay Moroti]
Dana Quigley acknowledges the crowd after making birdie on No. 18 to finish at 7-under 64.
Quigley, a former club pro who once tried and failed on the PGA Tour, shot 7-under 64 at the TPC of Tampa Bay to tie for the Verizon Classic lead with former champion Mike Hill, who came within one birdie of shooting his age.
Playing in the 170th consecutive tournament for which he has been eligible, it was not just another round of golf for Quigley.
"I still have a hard time believing this is happening to me," said Quigley, 54, a five-time Senior PGA Tour winner who has amassed more than $6.2-million in earnings. "If someone told me I could shoot a score like I did on this course, I'd have bet the bank against it. It's just a total blessing.
"It's a thrill every day. Last week I played with (Tom) Watson and (Hale) Irwin on Sunday (and tied for fifth). I've played with all these guys. I used to sit around the (pro) shop and talk about these guys. It gives me a chuckle to see my name up there with them on the leaderboard."
Hill won his first senior title at this event in 1990, when the event was called the GTE Suncoast Classic and was played at Tampa Palms. He has 18 senior victories, his last coming in 1996.
He nearly added to his slew of accomplishments. Hill, 63, came within one stroke of setting the senior record for becoming the youngest player to shoot his age. Gary Player shot 64 in 2000.
"It gives you something to shoot for," said Hill, who got to 7 under through 12 holes, then parred the remaining six, missing an 8-foot birdie putt at the par-5 14th. "How many guys 63 do you see shooting 63? I've done a lot of things, won 18 times out here. You've got to have something that inspires you to go play. I think trying to shoot your age every time you go play has got to be some kind of an inspiration to you."
Hill birdied five holes in a row on the front nine to shoot 30 and had a stretch of seven birdies in eight holes.
"After I birdied 12, I thought I was close enough that I could birdie one more and par the rest and shoot 63," he said.
It was a feel-good day of senior golf. Near-ideal weather and virtually no wind made the usually stern TPC of Tampa Bay course rather tame. There were 39 players -- half the field -- who broke par on the 6,783-yard layout. For the first time in 11 years at the TPC, the opening-round stroke average (70.897) was under par. Birdies were everywhere.
Bruce Summerhays, a former club pro turned senior golfer who turned 58 on Thursday, shot 65. Bruce Fleisher, the 2000 Verizon champion, shot 66 and fired his 10th straight subpar round on this course. He was two shots back along with Tom Kite, the winner of the MasterCard Championship last month. Bruce Lietzke and Doug Tewell were three shots back at 67. Seventeen players shot 68, including tour rookie Fuzzy Zoeller.
"There's a lot of intimidation on this course, but the conditions were so good," Fleisher said. "They couldn't be any better. The weather was nice, the big crowds are out. There's a lot of excitement."
Quigley couldn't have been any less excited, unless, perhaps, it snowed. He is playing in his 156th consecutive event and in April will break the tour record for consecutive eligible events played (177) held by Mike McCullough. The last time he did not play a senior tournament was at the end of the 1997 season, when he did not qualify for the Senior Tour Championship.
His 37 starts last year were the most by any senior player and he finished ninth on the money list, earning more than $1.5-million.
He has no plans of slowing down, whether it's tournament rounds or casual rounds. He has committed to every senior event this year.
"I love to play for $2," Quigley said. "Believe me, I grind just as hard on my shots in an outing as I do here. You can ask my wife (Angie), golf is the only thing I do. She does everything else in my life. Bills, transportation, hotels, investing. There's nothing I do other than play golf. Golf is my hobby.
"If I ever get to a golf course and dread playing, I'll know it's time to cut back. But I can't wait to get to the golf course for the next round. I'm ready to go right now."
Back to Sports