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Heavy Duty To the iron men of the Senior tour, every day is a good one for golf

April 09, 2001
April 09, 2001

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April 9, 2001

Heavy Duty To the iron men of the Senior tour, every day is a good one for golf

Hale Irwin, hardly the funniest man on the Senior tour, thought he
had gotten off a good one. Strolling down the fairway at the TPC
of Tampa Bay during February's Verizon Classic, he turned to his
playing partner, Dana Quigley, and asked, "Well, have you already
committed for the whole season?"

This is an article from the April 9, 2001 issue

Irwin meant it as a joke. All the players know that Quigley is
the tour's version of Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken and Strom Thurmond
rolled into one, having played every Senior event for three years
and a total of 124 in a row.

Quigley had a quick comeback for Irwin. "As a matter of fact," he
said, "my wife just did. I committed to the first third before
the season, but the other day she signed me up for the rest of
the tournaments."

Yes, all the tournaments. For the fourth straight year. Irwin
looked at Quigley as if he were a three-headed Martian. "Dana,"
Irwin said, shaking his head, "you're a very sick individual."

Quigley laughed when he retold the story. "I think Hale believes
that too," Quigley said. "Yes, I am a strange creature."

Angie, Dana's wife, knows just how strange. She signed up her
husband for all those tournaments without even asking him. "There
wasn't any real conversation about it," Dana says. "Angie knows
that's what I'm going to do."

Quigley may be the steeliest iron man on the Senior tour, but
he's not the only one. Mike McCullough, a journeyman on the
regular Tour, has played in 155 straight Senior tour events for
which he has been eligible. Bruce Summerhays, the original iron
man, had a streak of 96 tournaments that ended in 1997. Ed
Dougherty, a decorated Vietnam veteran, played 37 of the 39
tournaments last year, and because that hardly seemed enough, he
teed it up in two unofficial events in the postseason.

Quigley, though, is the only Senior with perfect attendance. He
last missed a tournament, any tournament, in '97, and that was
the season-ending Tour Championship, for which he hadn't
qualified. Counting only tournaments for which he was eligible,
he has played in 138 straight.

Quigley, 54, has played golf almost nonstop since he was 12, when
he and his older brother, Paul, caddied at Rhode Island Country
Club. Later he played for Rhode Island, then spent five mostly
unsuccessful years on the PGA Tour. Before he was hired in 1982
as the pro at Crestwood Country Club in Rehobeth, Mass., he
warned the members during his interview, "I hope you don't want a
pro who sits in the shop." Since joining the Senior tour, in
1997, he has had four victories. He has finished fifth, sixth and
seventh, respectively, on the money list the last three years.
But really, 124 tournaments in a row?

Says CBS announcer and fellow Senior tourist Gary McCord, "Every
time I see Dana, I get about three inches in front of his face
and ask, 'Are you O.K.?' I went to 29 tournaments in a row last
year--some playing, some announcing. After 26 I was having
nightmares about David Feherty. I told Dana I was going for 28,
and he said, 'Twenty-eight? I can't remember 28. That was like an
hors d'oeuvre.' I felt better after that. It was as if he had
talked me down from a ledge."

Quigley's record-setting streak nearly ended last September.
Exhausted after an event in Michigan, he called sports
psychologist Bob Rotella, who made him promise that he wouldn't
play the following week in Indianapolis. After three days at home
in West Palm Beach, Fla., with no golf, Quigley couldn't take it
anymore. He flew to Indy on Wednesday night and played the next
day. Angie called Rotella to explain. Says Quigley, "Rotella told
her, 'You know, I've been thinking it over, and that's probably
the best thing he could do.' He probably didn't mean it. I know
he had to be saying to himself, This guy is nuts."

The streak survived the high school graduation of Nicole, his
daughter from a previous marriage, two years ago. Quigley
surprised her by chartering a plane in Nashville and, after his
round on Friday, flying to Rhode Island for the graduation
ceremony. He flew back in time for his Saturday round. "She had
already accepted that I wasn't going to be there," Quigley says.
"So when I called her on Friday afternoon, she said, 'Daddy, I'm
going to miss you so much tonight.' I said, 'I've got a surprise
for you.' She started crying. It was one of the best days I've
ever had."

Don't get the wrong idea. The streak is not the end-all to
Quigley. "I'm never going to catch McCullough anyway," he says.
"I've got the consecutive streak, and no good player is ever
going to break that because it's too much golf."

Quigley simply likes to play. He would've put his clubs away
during a cold spell in Florida last Christmas, but his son,
Devon, visited and wanted to play. They were on the tee at Bear
Lakes Golf Club in West Palm Beach each morning at 7:30.

Quigley's schedule is extreme, but it's common for Senior tour
players to enter more tournaments than their PGA Tour
counterparts. Only four of the Tour's top 30 money winners in
2000 played in 30 or more events last year, but 18 of the top 30
Seniors did. Six of them, in fact, made 37 or more starts. The
PGA Tour's top 20 averaged 25.25 appearances. The top 20 Seniors
averaged 31.20 (32.16 not counting Tom Watson, who entered only
13 tournaments).

"The question is, Why do these guys play so much?" says
Dougherty, 53. "If they're honest, they'll tell you it's fear.
Making the top 31, which you have to do to stay exempt, is tough.
I can't afford to take a week off. I've never been fishing in my
life, and I haven't shot a gun since Vietnam, so I don't have
much else to do. I'm going to go as hard as I can until I'm 55 or
56. There's time to be tired later."

If they drop out of the top 31 on the annual money list, Seniors
can remain exempt by ranking among the top 31 in career Senior
earnings or by being one of the top 70 combined (Senior and
regular Tour) career money winners. McCullough, who turned 56 on
March 21, felt the heat at the end of 1999 when he was clinging
to the 31st spot on the season money list going into the last
full-field event of the year. (The top 31 would qualify for the
next week's $2 million Tour Championship.) Afraid of risking his
exempt status, he played in the Pacific Bell Classic in Los
Angeles rather than attend the wedding of his oldest son, Jason,
in Baltimore. "That was a tough decision for Mike," says Gil
Morgan, a friend of McCullough's. "His ex-wife called from the
ceremony so he could listen on a cell phone."

Says McCullough, "I was overlooking the 1st tee before my round
and got to hear the exchange of vows. There were tears on my
end."

The Seniors also play hard because of their pension plan. They
receive a credit--about $2,300--every time they finish in the top
48. Dougherty, 53, won almost $1 million in 37 starts last year
and added about $120,000 to his retirement fund.

"There's a benefit to playing a lot," he says, "but it is a lot
of golf. I'm out here six days out of seven, but please don't
think I'm bitching. This job is a dream for me."

Being an iron man caught up with Dougherty last September at the
Bank One Classic in Dallas. Mentally and physically exhausted, he
shot an 83 in the final round and finished dead last. "People
thought maybe my back went out," says Dougherty, "and I had to
say no, I just played bad. I was somewhere I didn't want to be,
and I paid the price in embarrassment. Hopefully, I won't let
that happen again."

Summerhays, 57, lives in Heber City, Utah, and has eight
children. He has played in 228 events over the last seven
seasons. Last year he missed only one event--so he could caddie
for his youngest daughter, Carrie, at the U.S. Women's Open.
"That was a great week," he says. "My kids know that if they
want me, I'll be there."

Quigley says he'll be there for his daughter, too...with some
conditions, that is. "I told her that if she gets married, it
had better be on a Monday or Wednesday, or in November or
December," he says. "She laughed and said, 'I don't think so.'
Thankfully she's not planning to get married for at least six
more years. I'll be all through with Senior golf by then--I
hope. This is a means to an end. I want to retire and enjoy my
money."

Retire? And do what? The iron man tries to look offended, then
breaks into a smile.

"Play golf," he says.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEY TERRILL McCullough gets a lift from fellow iron men (from left) Quigley, Dougherty and Summerhays.COLOR PHOTO: ANDY LYONS
Rather than go to his son's wedding, McCullough played, and
listened to the ceremony on the phone. "There were tears on my
end," he said.