Quinns’ Quest: Father, Son Miss Out on Open at Oakmont
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
LONGMEADOW, Mass. – Fran Quinn was walking up the fairway on the 10th hole at Longmeadow Country Club, having just made the turn in Monday’s U.S. Open local qualifier, when he took a moment to look back at the tee of the adjacent first hole.
That’s where Quinn’s son, Owen, was hitting a tee shot – on his own 10th hole of the day. Father and son were bidding to make it back to the U.S. Open, where Fran, now 51, created a minor sensation two years ago at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club. Quinn shot 68 for a share of second place after Round 1, with Owen alongside as his caddie. Though he faded to a tie for 56th, the Quinns were the subjects of dozens of feature stories – several of them on Father’s Day.
Quinn now competes mainly on the PGA Tour Champions circuit, for players 50 and older. But the U.S. Open dream remains strong, so like 9,000-plus hopefuls, he was back in local qualifying, trying to earn his way to Oakmont Country Club, where he finished 43rd in 1994, the best finish of his four U.S. Open starts – five years before Owen was born.
Few of the 111 U.S. Open local qualifiers around the country boast father-son competitors, and the odds of having such a tandem in sectional qualifying grew slim when the Quinns fell short on Monday. In daunting conditions – 45 degrees when they teed off shortly after 9 a.m., with winds gusting over 20 miles per hour – Owen shot 78 to best his dad by one stroke; the younger Quinn was six strokes back of medalist Matthew Naumec, of Wilbraham, Mass., and five strokes out of the playoff that decided the last four of the five available spots.
“I know he’s disappointed with the way he finished,” said Fran, of Holden, Mass. “But it’s a thrill as a dad to see him come out and compete to get into the National Open.”
Perhaps when Fran looked back to watch his son’s tee shot, he knew his own chance for a fifth Open berth was gone. He had played his first nine in 7-over-par 42.
“The conditions were brutal, very tough,” said Quinn, who has battled injuries the past several years. “My health is decent, but a day like today beats you up a little bit.”
After turning 50 last March, Quinn injured his back and was unable to make his Champions Tour debut for several weeks. He went to England in July and qualified for The Senior Open Championship at Sunningdale, and built on a solid performance there with a tie for third place in August at the Boeing Classic near Seattle. That finish got Quinn into several additional events, and he hopes to continue the cycle in 2016.
“I have an exemption into the Senior PGA Championship next week [in Michigan], which I’m thrilled about, and I’m also in the field for the Senior Players [Championship],” said Quinn. “I’ve got to get on a little roll and have three or four really good weeks, and hopefully that will be enough to secure my card.”
Both Quinns shot 2-over 37 on the incoming nine at Longmeadow, a 1922 Donald Ross classic which has hosted two USGA championships. It was Owen’s opening nine, which gave him a glimmer of hope.
“I missed a bunch of putts, including a couple of lipouts – honestly, I could have been a couple under par on my first nine,” said Owen, a senior at Wachusett Regional High School. “But I went to the front nine and hit a couple of bad shots and made a couple of bad mistakes. What are you gonna do? I’ve been around it a couple of times as a caddie, but to be in it as a player was a great experience.”
Tables were turned in the Quinn family last week, when Fran caddied for Owen in the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship, accompanied by Fran’s brother Kevin, who partnered with his nephew. They finished well back of the winners, Matt Parziale and Herbie Aikens, but relished the opportunity.
“I’ve caddied for him four or five times in the past year,” said Fran, who played 71 events on the PGA Tour and won four times in more than 360 starts on the Web.com Tour. “I haven’t completely repaid the favor, but I’m catching up. If he wants advice, I give it to him, but if he doesn’t, I let him go. That’s really the way you learn.”
Owen is headed to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., in the fall, where he plans to play golf. But first, Fran is hoping for another opportunity to compete opposite his son.
“I’m going to try to play in the Mass. Open at Worcester Country Club [June 13-15],” said Fran, who is familiar with the course, which hosted the first Ryder Cup Matches in 1927. “I haven’t played it in close to 25 years, but hopefully I’ll be able to play with Owen there.”
The younger Quinn will have to qualify for that event, but the proud father sees bigger things on the horizon.
“He’s a really good player right now, and he hasn’t even scraped the surface,” said Fran. “He’s going to get the opportunity to play in a few U.S. Opens.”
If he does, good luck wresting the caddie duties away from Quinn the elder.
Spanish Champion Guzman Heads Home
No one is likely to confuse Western Massachusetts with Spain’s Atlantic coast. But Xavier Guzman would battle Monday’s blustery local qualifying conditions again for the chance to compete in a U.S. Open.
“For someone who is not even playing on a main tour, it would be like a dream to play in a major,” said Guzman, 35, the national champion of Spain, who lives in Matalascanas, not far from Seville. “With the different courses you play in the U.S. Open, to come over here to try to qualify – you have a chance at least. I love the Masters, but it’s an invitational, so you need to be top 50 in the world to get in.”
Guzman carded a 7-over 77 to miss the 6-for-4 playoff for the final qualifying spots by four strokes. “I was here a few days ago [for a practice round] and there was sun and no wind – today, I played a different golf course. Conditions were very difficult.”
Guzman grew up 25 miles outside of Barcelona, and he is longtime friends with Jae Lee, of Peabody, Mass., who hosted Guzman on a two-week visit that included Monday’s qualifier, as well as Mass. Open qualifying and a few other casual rounds. Lee failed in his qualifying attempt on Monday at Essex County Club, in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass.
Two years ago at Pinehills, in Plymouth, Mass., Guzman double-bogeyed the 16th hole to miss advancing to sectional qualifying by one stroke. On Monday, having bogeyed several holes en route to missing out by a wider margin, Guzman was admittedly less upset.
“I’ll fly back tomorrow, happy to see my wife and to stay home,” said Guzman, who has competed in about 25 events on the Challenge Tour, the PGA European Tour’s satellite circuit. “I’ve got some tournaments coming up in Spain and a few more in Europe. But I will try again for the U.S. Open.”
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.