HARTFORD, Conn. – Rhode Island native Brett Quigley was always one of the most outgoing and personable players on the PGA Tour but went 0-for-408 in getting to the winner’s circle.
Quigley’s uncle, Dana, also never won on the PGA Tour, though he and Brett each had chances in the Greater Hartford Open (now Travelers Championship) at Wethersfield Country Club and then TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. But Dana, who once shot a 10-under-par 61 at Wethersfield CC, had 11 PGA Tour Champions titles, including the SBC Senior Open, and won 18 times around New England while a club pro.
But Brett is batting .500 in his first two PGA Tour Champions outings since turning 50 on Aug. 18 after rallying for a one-stroke victory over Stephen Ames in the Morocco Champions at Samanah Golf Club in Marrakech, Morocco.
“It’s been so long since I won a tournament,” said Quigley, whose previous victory was his second of two titles on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour in the 2001 Arkansas Classic. “Just incredible. It’s weird, I had a peace all week, I was pretty comfortable all week. I wouldn’t say I was nervous until the last hole on my second putt but just felt comfortable here in Marrakesh.
“Now I have a schedule and a place to play. I didn’t mean to make it this interesting. I meant to leave the first putt (on the last hole) short and then I run it five feet past. I was calm all week until the 18th after Stephen made the birdies on 16 and 17. But it was mine to win, and I did.”
Quigley, who finished second five times on the PGA Tour and has earned more than $11 million in his career, started the final round three strokes behind Ames. But Quigley shot a second consecutive 6-under 66 to finish at 15-under 201, one better than Ames, who closed with 70 in the inaugural event in the north African nation.
“I think it helped not having been playing too much the last few years,” said Quigley, who tied for 64th in his first PGA Tour Champions event in September in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “I had a lot of years off. I had a leg problem, I had three fractured vertebrae, so I’ve been home for almost seven years raising girls. I think a different perspective.”
Quigley had to work plenty hard to end his 19-year victory drought after going 5-under in a six-hole stretch on the front nine, making an eagle 3 at the fifth hole and three birdies before adding another at No. 11.
“Got off to a good start. Then it’s funny,” Quigley said. “I missed a short one on eight for birdie and then I started thinking about score, thinking about the tournament, just kind of got a little bit in my own way. Somehow hit some good shots coming in and made some big putts.”
Quigley saved par on the 13th hole with a 20-footer to maintain a one-stroke lead over Ames, then made a 40-footer for birdie from the front of the green on the No. 14, the ball banging into the flagstick and falling in. Ames bogeyed the hole to give Quigley a three-stroke lead, and after Quigley and Ames each bogeyed the 15th hole, Ames birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to close within one. But Quigley made the 5-footer for par and the win on the 18th hole.
Making the win all that more special for Quigley is that he did it with a familiar face on his bag. Richard McCarthy, a Massachusetts native who now lives in Palm Beach, Fla., has been a friend and at-home golf buddy of Quigley’s since the mid-1990s. But this was only the third time that McCarthy caddied for Quigley, first on the PGA Tour Champions.
“We were introduced by a mutual friend, Kevin Murphy, who runs the McArthur Club in Hobe Sound (Fla.) almost 30 years ago,” McCarthy told The Caddie Network. “Just two New England guys in Florida – let’s go play golf. We met right there and have been buddies ever since.”
With very limited status, Quigley was a late entry into the Morocco tournament after several other players withdrew. He was eligible as one of the top 10 available players from the PGA Tour’s career money list, and when he found out he was in, he called McCarthy to see if he’d be interested in picking up the loop.
“He said, ‘You want to go to Morocco?’ It’s a part of the world I’d never been to, so I said, ‘Sure,’ and I told him he had to bring the small bag,” McCarthy said with a laugh. “Other caddies there were asking if I was his full-time caddie – everyone wants his bag – and I had to tell them ‘if this event wasn’t in Morocco, I’d be back home in bed!’”
Then what happened was storybook.
“For the first time, he played like he does when we’re out playing a round at home,” McCarthy said. “He was so calm. We were talking about it on the way home from the airport and realized that in the whole 54 holes, there wasn’t one negative part to come up. No anger, no disappointment. It was just like we were playing at home.”
Quigley, who won the 1987 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship and 1988 Northeast Amateur at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, R.I., notched his long-awaited victory when he made a 5-foot par putt on the final hole to avoid a playoff.
“He putted really well,” McCarthy said. “He made everything. Missed maybe three tee balls out to the right all week. It was impressive, especially when Ames birdied 16 and 17 to get within one. Brett hits it so far still. Ames and [Bernhard] Langer had about 203 in on 18 and Quigs is hitting 8-iron.
“We had a discussion about the first putt and how fast it was… and he found out how fast it was, hitting it five feet by. Ames put pressure on him making the 8-footer, but Brett composed himself and hit that winning putt center cut. Lightening finally struck, and I was lucky enough to be on the strap for a good buddy and watch him get that first win in a big event. Very cool. It was fantastic.”
Aside from Quigley’s strong play all week, what impressed McCarthy most was how genuinely happy his fellow competitors were for Quigley. Fellow Rhode Islanders Billy Andrade and caddie Mark “Ziggy” Zyons were greenside to embrace Quigley and McCarthy moments after the final putt dropped. They were paired with Quigley and McCarthy in Round 2.
“It was funny,” McCarthy said. “We played with Billy in the second round. It was cool. On the first tee, there’s six of us there (three players, three caddies), we’re sitting there and four of the six are New England boys on the tee, talking about the Pats, the Bruins and the Super Bowl and we’re in Morocco.”
Final-round playing partners Ames and Bernhard Langer also had kind words for Quigley, as did countless others.
“When I saw Bernhard was in our group for the final round, I immediately thought, ‘Am I going to bother him? Is my shadow going to be in his way? Am I going to make a noise to piss him off?’ I had to watch my Ps and Qs,” McCarthy said. “But let me tell you about Langer – what a class act. I knew he would be quiet, focused, driven, the whole nine – he’s a major winner. But he couldn’t have been more of a gentleman on or off the course.
“You think of him as so robotic and so great, but he’s a great ambassador to the game of golf. He said congratulations a bunch of times, even when we left the airport Sunday morning. The biggest surprise to me was what a nice guy Bernhard was.… But as for the feelings toward Quigs from his peers, that didn’t surprise me at all. He gets along with everybody. He hadn’t won yet, but I noticed a while back when I caddied for him at the Bob Hope Classic a couple years ago on the range – it never crossed my mind how long he’d been out there – everyone from John Daly to Retief Goosen looked up and said hi to him. Nobody went by without acknowledging him. He deserved what he got.”
McCarthy also shared a special text he received from Dana Quigley.
“Dana sent me a text when it was over and said, ‘Congrats, Richie. You were awesome. Thanks for believing in him. We always knew he was that good. Praise God,’” McCarthy said. “Dana can be a hard ass; we know how good he is on the course. He’s been rooting for this kid forever and knew it was his time.
“I think Quigs will run for a while now. He’s the new young buck out there. Dana is as tickled as can be for him. Dana couldn’t have been happier for him. Dana was pumped. His dad, Paul, too.”
As for future caddying plans for McCarthy, there isn’t much. There’s a party for Quigley back home in Florida on Tuesday night to celebrate the victory. McCarthy said he thought they might talk about keeping the band together for this week’s event in Naples and, if things fall into place, McCarthy might be making a cameo in Rhode Island in the summer.
“I made it clear that he can’t afford me, but we’ll do something,” McCarthy quipped. “We’ve got Naples to keep it riding. And then if he qualifies for the Senior U.S. Open, that’s in Rhode Island at Newport Country Club (on June 25-28), would be special. But, for now, Naples is most realistic. I can drive to that one. Everyone wants his bag now.”