Imagine being a part of a sport, at its highest level for close to three decades and never experiencing the thrill of victory. As Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid can attest, it takes an extreme level of patience, self-belief and stick-to-it-iveness to survive until you reach the mountain top.
For veteran golfer Brett Quigley, twenty years of hard work and avoiding self-doubt finally paid off. Quigley spent close to 15 years on the PGA Tour. In more than 400 starts he compiled five runner-up finishes and earned more than $11 million. The one thing missing was a victory, until last week.
In just his second start on the PGA Tour Champions, since turning 50, Quigley won the Morocco Champions. The win validated years of struggle with his body and his game, and quickly became the feel-good golf story of the young season.
SI.com caught up with Quigley, who still three days after his win was in a state of shock. The man his friends call “Quiggs” opened up about the emotions he shared with his family, the NHL star who played a big role in his comeback, and what it’s like to win again after a 20-year drought.
SI: You played 15 consecutive years on the PGA Tour without a win.
Then you turn 50, and in your second start on the PGA Tour Champions you win the Morocco Champions. Can you describe the emotions after the win?
Brett Quigley: I really wasn't nervous the whole time. I was good about not putting the cart in front of the horse and not thinking about all the stuff that it means which allowed me to play some pretty good golf.
Afterwards…Oh my goodness. I started talking about my girls, Lily and Lucy and my wife Amy and then I started crying. I started thinking ‘Holy cow, I've got a place to play now for the rest of this year and another year!' It was truly amazing.
SI: You started the day three strokes back but all of a sudden you took the lead. Did you almost have to train yourself how to win again?
BQ: I figured, I've got to play an unbelievable round and Stephen Ames has to falter. I didn’t think it would happen so quick, but it did after five holes, so that was the big adjustment.
It was bizarre. I had a three-shot lead on 16 tee and then I think I got a little bit ahead of myself. All of a sudden, the lead is one and I’m on the 18 hole. I went from it being a done deal to hanging in the balance in 30 minutes. Crazy.
SI: You hadn’t won a tournament since the 2001 Arkansas Classic, on the Korn ferry tour. Do you remember that?
BQ: I do barely! You know the thing is, it never occurred to me that I couldn't win. I wasn’t saying, ‘Geez I haven’t won in 20 years. I don’t know how to do this’. You just get back on it. Thinking back to junior golf it’s like riding a bike.
I was just good at playing golf last week and just hitting golf shots and shooting a low score and not getting ahead of myself and thinking about all the amazing stuff that comes with it.
SI: You’ve got a ton of friends in the game of golf. I’m sure you received some great congratulatory texts and phone calls. Who sent you the coolest text?
BQ: I’m gonna get a little sappy here but it was my daughters. Both sent texts. My 11-year old thought it was so cool. She had really never seen me at work. I’ve been home for so long and really in and out of competition.
So for them to have seen me experience those emotions is really, really cool.
SI: You had a very successful PGA Tour career but in your mid-forties you didn’t play much. You dealt with multiple injuries and struggled with your game. How difficult was that stretch for you?
BQ: Golf wise, it was very difficult. To be away from the game and not be able to play and deal with a leg injury, a back injury and a lot of stuff that went with it. Best way to describe it is frustrating.
Honestly though, I had a silver lining the entire time. I was home with my now 11- and 12-year-old daughters and was taking them to school and picking them up. I was very fortunate to be able to do that at that time.
Golf-wise it was terrible but being home with the girls and Amy, I wouldn't trade that for the world.
SI: Did you ever doubt yourself? Doubt that you could play at the highest level again?
BQ: I think for a while, yes. You never know if the body's going to come back or be anything close to what it used to be. But I knew in the last, year for sure that I was finally getting healthy feeling good. It felt like I could swing the golf club without any pain, which is completely freeing.
I’ve been able to practice, but I do a lot of playing and my game had been really good the last two months leading up to this.
SI: You play golf with a lot of different guys down in the Jupiter, Florida area. Who’s been the biggest influence for you getting back to competitive golf and to the point of being able to win?
BQ: That's a great question. Probably two guys. Maybe an unlikely person is Adam Oates. He played hockey and NHL for 19 years and had an amazing career. He’s coaching players now in the NHL. He's got a bunch of guys who he coaches individually as a skills coach and has done incredible stuff for them.
He’s a big golf fan, a big golf junkie, and he's helped me a lot with my approach to the game, practicing and all of the other aspects of the game. He probably helped me the most, getting me thinking about playing tournament golf and swinging the golf club.
The other person that I spent a lot of time with Brad Faxon. He and I play a lot of golf together. I think just being around him, helped. He's got great energy, great vibe, and he’s obviously a great player and a great putter. I think just being around that helps get your mind in the right frame.
RA: Your first full year on the PGA Tour was 1997. You've been around the game for almost 30 years now. Who's the best player you've ever played with?
BQ: Day in, day out probably my uncle Dana Quigley. I grew up around him and caddied for him and watched him play. He hit it the straightest I've ever seen. All of the time. Driver, irons, everything. If he putted well, he'd shot 64 or better. If he putted average, he shot 68 and it was really no surprise to me.
He had a great run on the Champions Tour, winning 11 times.
It's funny, this summer I was kind of joking with him. I said, ‘Hey, I'm going to beat your record’. And without missing a beat, he looks at me and says, ‘You better start with one.'
SI: Is it almost serendipitous—seeing the success that your Uncle Dana had on the Champions tour, and now here you are getting your first win on that same tour?
BQ: I'm speechless on that because I had an OK career on the PGA Tour. It was pretty amazing that I could stay out there for 15 or so years and not win. So I played a lot of consistently good golf.
Certainly, there was a hole, not having a win on tour, but to come right out on the PGA Tour Champions and win, its amazing. I always felt like I could do it. I just didn’t think it would come this quickly.