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

Hilo's Veriato opens with sixth-place finish

 •  Quigley outlasts Nelson at Hualalai
 •  Nicklaus feeling good, and in the hunt, again

Advertiser Staff

With a roller-coaster final round, Hilo's Steve Veriato slid into sixth place yesterday and won $67,000. It's a great start to a strange year for Veriato.

He was exempt all last year because he won in 2001, but lost his exempt status when he finished 61st on the 2002 money list. His win earned him a spot at this MasterCard, but Veriato can now get into full-field tournaments only by sponsor exemption or Monday qualifying, unless he wins.

The St. Joseph's graduate's finish was his best performance since tying for sixth at last year's Turtle Bay Championship. Veriato had to rally for his money. After birdieing two of his first four holes, he lost his touch around the greens and made the turn in even par.

Veriato birdied the 10th hole, but double-bogeyed 11 when his approach shot got away and he had an "impossible lie" he could only punch into a bunker.

Veriato, walking with a gallery of about 20, fought back with birdies on the next three holes, then parred the final four to shoot 70.

"I got my head together," said Veriato, whose wife Karen is his caddy. "Those three birdies in a row helped quite a bit."

Veriato had few regrets. "Karen told me, 'If you could have had sixth (place) before this ever started, would you take it?' " he recalled. "You're damn right, I will."

He plans to try and Monday qualify in two weeks at Naples, Fla. "I want more chances," Veriato said. "If we get our chances, we will finish well."

• Quigley gets local help: Dana Quigley's caddy yesterday was Makena pro Chris Sutton, who used to be Quigley's assistant at Crestwood Country Club in Massachusetts.

"He and I were really on the same wave length and it really helped me considerably, especially with club selection," Quigley said. "Down the stretch he had me hitting the 'hard swing' rather than the little finesse shot I tended to play. He talked me into hitting the hard iron shots and those are the ones I made birdies with."

Quigley dedicated his victory to Sutton, who caddied for him at the Turtle Bay Championship, and the late Jerry Kiesel, who was on his bag at the last five MasterCards. Kiesel died the week after Quigley won the Siebel Classic last year.

SHORT PUTTS: The average score yesterday was 70.361, with 10 double bogeys and 10 eagles. The average score for the tournament was 69.556, compared to 71.182 last year. ... The par-5 10th hole was the easiest, at an average of 4.222, while the par-3 fifth was toughest at 3.269. There were just seven birdies at No. 5.