WORCESTER, Mass – At age 57, Fran Quinn Jr. of Holden will be the oldest golfer to play in the U.S. Open next week at The Country Club in Brookline in his home state of Massachusetts.
And he has his son Owen to thank for it, at least in part.
In March, Owen called his father to tell him he was considering playing in the U.S. Open local qualifier at Taconic GC in Williamstown. Quinn told him he thought Taconic was a great venue and that he’d love it. Then he told Owen to enter him in the qualifier as well.
The Quinns both shot 1-over 72 to share second place in the qualifier and advanced to the final stage of qualifying Monday in Purchase, N.Y. Fran shot a pair of 1-under 69s and then birdied the second playoff hole to earn the right to play in the U.S. Open June 16-19. Owen shot 70-74 to fall short of the playoff, but he was happy for his father.
“Owen came over and he hugged me,” Quinn said. “He had tears in his eyes and he told me, “Dad, I’m so proud of you.’”
If Owen hadn’t called him to tell him he was going to play in the local qualifier at Taconic, Quinn wouldn’t have considered playing as well and he wouldn’t be headed to the U.S. Open.
“No chance I would have gone,” he said. “It’s destiny, yeah, for sure.”
At 57, Quinn is the oldest player to advance through the local and final qualifying stages since Brian DePasquale, USGA senior manager of championship communications, began keeping records in 1997. The previous oldest was Wes Short Jr., who was 52 in 2016.
Quinn is five years older than Jim Furyk, the second oldest golfer who will play in the U.S. Open at TCC. Phil Mickelson will turn 52 next Thursday June 16, the day of the opening round. Neither of them had to play in qualifiers.
Over the last 40 years, only six golfers who were older than Quinn, who is 57 and three months old, have played in the U.S. Open, but none of them had to qualify either. Arnold Palmer played at age 64, Raymond Floyd at 61, Tom Watson at 60, Jack Nicklaus at 57 and nearly five months, 58, 59 and 60, Allen Doyle at 57 and 10 months and 58, and Kenny Perry at 57 and 10 months.
Qualifying to play in the U.S. Open in his home state ranks among Quinn’s top thrills in golf.
“It’s got to be up there,” he said. “It’s a thrill, it’s exciting and when I look back at it when I’m done playing professional tour golf, I’m sure it will be right there at the top. Right now, I’m still trying to write the final chapters of my book.”
After undergoing shoulder surgery and being away from the game for a year and a half, Quinn has played a lot of golf the past couple of years with his 23-year-old son, who turned pro last year, and his son’s friends.
“He’s hugely instrumental in my comeback,” Quinn said, “because he’s the youth, he’s the kid who bombs it, he hits it hard and he’s kept pushing me. I play with him and all his young buddies who have turned pro and I’m able to compete with these kids.”
This will be Quinn’s fifth U.S. Open and his first since 2014 when he also qualified at Purchase, N.Y. At Pinehurst, N.C., that year with Owen as his caddie, he shot an opening-round 68 to share second place and became a media sensation. He finished tied for 55th on a memorable Father’s Day.
Beginning Friday, Quinn will play in the PGA Tour Champions event in Madison, Wisconsin, the American Family Insurance Championship. His wife, Lori, has caddied for him the past two years in PGA Tour Champions events and caddied for him on Monday. She’ll also carry his bag in the U.S. Open. They plan to commute 40 miles to TCC from their home in Holden next week unless Quinn has an early tee time. Then they’ll stay closer to the club.
“It’s a fun story and I’m happy I’m part of it,” he said. “It’s a dream.”
On Monday, there was an eight-man playoff for the final three of the five qualifying spots.
After everyone in Quinn’s foursome parred the first playoff hole, they had to wait half an hour to see what the next foursome did before they moved on to the second playoff hole. Quinn’s 57-year-old back locked up. With the help of a Theragun massage device, he was able to continue.
On the 590-yard, uphill par-5 18th, he laid up on his second shot to 98 yards, then hit a sand wedge to within two feet and tapped in the birdie putt. Two of his playing partners also birdied, 20-year-old amateur Michael Thorbjornsen of Wellesley and pro Brandon Matthews of Dupont, Pa., who had played golf at Temple University under the coaching of Quinn’s brother Brian.
After everyone in the second foursome parred 18, Quinn, Thorbjornsen and Matthews earned the right to play in the U.S. Open.
“I expect to play very well,” Quinn said. “We’ll wait and see how all that pans out, but I have high expectations.”
On the web: USOpen.com