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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 3, 2003

Quigley outlasts Nelson at Hualalai

 •  Nicklaus feeling good, and in the hunt, again
 •  Hilo's Veriato opens with sixth-place finish

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

KA'UPULEHU, Hawai'i — Dana Quigley has become every hacker's hero because of the vast quantity of golf he has played. Yesterday, he reminded people again of the high quality of his game.

Dana Quigley won the MasterCard Championship and earned $250,000, the largest check of his career.

West Hawaii today via Associated Press

In his 202nd consecutive start — an ironman record he extends each week on the Champions Tour — Quigley won the MasterCard Championship by two shots over Larry Nelson. Quigley birdied the 18th for the third consecutive day, lofting his approach to 14 inches of the hole. Nelson, needing birdie to force a playoff, pulled his approach and finished with bogey.

The weird and wonderful final round at Hualalai Golf Club revolved around a trio of diverse golfers playing diverse rounds full of eagles, double bogeys and lead changes. Quigley, Nelson and Fuzzy Zoeller went into the final — and finally breezy — day tied for the lead and passed it around like a hot potato.

The day he turned 50, Quigley leapfrogged from "career club pro" to a storybook senior tour career that now includes eight wins and more than $8 million. He earned the largest check of his career ($250,000) yesterday by firing a 5-under-par 67 and finishing at 18-under 198.

"This is something beyond anything I could have dreamt," Quigley said. "For six years I've been out here on the senior tour and I've never given up on a shot, never not tried a shot. People call it hard work but I'm playing the game I love everyday of my life and it's no effort at all for me to play golf.

"To be able to win in a field like this on a great golf course in the most beautiful place on earth, what could be better? It's a thrill. I'll never get over it."

In contrast, Nelson never played golf until he returned from serving in Vietnam. He won 10 times on the regular tour, including three majors, and has added another 16 victories since turning 50, including the 2001 MasterCard. But his golf career has looked a little like yesterday's scorecard — four birdies, three bogeys, two eagles and a double bogey.

"Golf personified," Nelson said with a smile and shake of his head.

The elusive nature of the game caught him last year. After winning 11 times in 2000 — when he was Player of the Year — and 2001, Nelson could only come up short in 2002. That happened again yesterday despite a gallant charge that saw him catch Quigley with birdies at 16 and 17, only to lose him in the final 110 yards of the tournament.

Nelson, knowing he needed birdie on the 54th hole, hit his drive straight down the middle. He had 109 yards to the hole and was hitting the sand wedge he'd had so much success with all week. Only he had to straddle a sprinkler hole with the ball above his feet and hit a perfect approach shot for $250,000.

Instead, he pulled it "about two yards" and it fell into a bunker. He blasted out but his birdie shot rolled by the hole.

"That's what the game is all about, trying to birdie the last three holes to win," Nelson said. "Especially coming into the last hole needing a birdie to tie."

Nelson birdied the first two holes and held or shared the lead until he double-bogeyed No. 9, driving into a fairway bunker that he could only punch out of, then three-putting.

At the turn Zoeller, who had a five on the par-3 fifth and a three on the par-5 seventh, was 16-under. Nelson and Quigley were 14-under. By the 12th, they were all tied again, at 15-under.

Zoeller lost his opportunity for a second senior victory when he played the back in 1-over, mugging and joking all the way. His victory at last year's Senior PGA Championship was his first in 15 years, 10 months and 27 days, dating to his 10th win on the PGA Tour. But he left Hualalai as happy as he arrived.

"Being this early and getting in the hunt is kinda fun," Zoeller said. "I've never been able do that. It usually takes me one or two months."

Quigley took his first lead with a birdie on the 14th and clung to it with what he called "one of the best up and downs of my life" on the next hole. After pulling his approach shot, he "sucked it up and hit a really difficult flop shot" to eight feet to save par. He birdied the next hole to put some distance between himself and Nelson, who still caught him, then put the tournament away on the final hole.

Nelson still was upbeat, insisting this was much more constructive than the "weird" ways he lost last year.

"I'm very happy with the way this turned out," Nelson said. "I probably putted as good as I have in a year. I'm sure I can build on this week. I played very solid, three rounds in the 60s. This is definitely a good place to start."

Quigley was ecstatic. He beat an elite field of proven champions he idolizes and got in yet another 18 holes in the process. Quigley says he rarely "practices," but trains by playing every day — sometimes going 70-plus holes. His passion for the game has never waned.

"Everyone thinks I'm nuts and half the people think I'm lying," Quigley said. "But ask anyone at my club. They think I'm crazy. I'm the first one there and the last one to go home usually.

"They know this is my life and I'm fortunate I've got a family that goes along with it. ... My passion you cannot imagine. I'll be flying all day tomorrow but when I wake up Tuesday morning I will be psyched to play golf again. I just think it's a tremendous challenge to figure out where this stupid white ball is going to go. It always seems to have a mind of it own. I'd rather do this than anything in the world."

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