Gamecock Alum Brett Quigley Comes Home

For former University of South Carolina golfer Brett Quigley, playing in the PGA Verizon Heritage on Hilton Head Island last week was a fun return to South Carolina to re-unite with old USC friends. Always on his mind are two important things, one personal and one professional.

Some sports fans and even golf fans know Quigley mostly for his 2007 Masters drama – off the course. Quigley raced home from Augusta, Georgia to Jupiter, Florida for the birth of his first child, and then raced back to play in the first round of the Masters.

A week at Hilton Head is always more fun and relaxing.

"It's great coming back here. Obviously it's a great golf course," said Quigley last week. "It's great just coming back to South Carolina and seeing a lot of guys I went to school with. They come down and watch this week. We rent a house and everyone comes over and we cook out, so it's a fun week for me. I got my family with me so it's that much better."

Quigley looks forward to having those same three to four couples meet him on Hilton Head every year during a week that most Tour professionals point to as a vacation for the family as well as a decompression week after the pressure of the Masters- or disappointment of not playing in it.

"I love coming here. It's just an easy feel" says the 38 year old Rhode Island native. "It's different from any other tournament event. It just feels more at home, more relaxed, which is a great thing."

Playing at Harbour Town's famous course, with small greens and narrow fairways, is a challenge Quigley enjoys. "I like the golf course because you've got to hit a lot of different shots; you've got to hit some fades, hit some hooks, and you've really got to work the ball. For me, that's always a good thing because it helps me focus a little more and hit a shot instead of sitting there and hitting a regular seven iron. You gotta work it a little into the pin. And then you gotta have a great short game. It suits me well. I like the golf course."

Quigley started the Tournament with a one over par round of 72 on Thursday that included a nice shot from behind some trees on the par 5 15th hole to save par, but he actually started the week with a Carolina-Clemson practice round Tuesday, pairing with Tour Rookie Kyle Thompson (USC 2001) against Tiger Tour players Charles Warren and Lucas Glover. Quigley started the entire week with the most important components of his life – his wife and family, soon to add a second daughter. "They (wife Amy and daughter Lily) travel with me almost every week and I couldn't imagine life without them."

"We won't go more than one week apart. I couldn't imagine being that long without either one of them," said Quigley, whose uncle Dana Quigley plays on the Champions Tour.

"(Parenthood) is the greatest thing. I never thought it would affect me this much. I never thought that I could love this little girl (Lillian) this much. It's just been amazing." The Quigley family attends about 75% of Brett's Tournaments on the travel heavy PGA Tour, but that travel might slow down in late summer. The couple expects their second child, a girl, in September. Then life will enter a new stage again for Quigley.

"It's funny; the first eight weeks (of Lilly's life) were slow. You feel like you're never going to get any sleep. And then the last ten months have been so fast it's amazing. But I love it." Most golf fans love the added middle name the Quigley's gave Lilly – Augusta, as in the Augusta National Golf Course Quigley left and then returned to and play right after Lilly's birth.

His Carolina buddies and spouses got to know Quigley's daughter while reminiscing about their days in Columbia. Quigley says his Carolina experience taught him a lot about golf and life, especially from Head Golf Coach Steve Liebler. "He worked us pretty darn hard, but he was a great coach. It's funny. We didn't have much talent, I think, as a team, but we always did well. Freshman year (we were) 8th in NCAA's."

In high school, Quigley saw fellow Rhode Island natives Brad Faxon (Furman) and Billy Andrade (Wake Forest) go south and decided he wanted to go to a school in either North or South Carolina, and then narrowed his choices down to South Carolina and Virginia. He said it was Leibler, a great recruiter, who convinced him that USC was the place to play golf. "I knew I wanted to play professionally and I thought I'd have a better chance at South Carolina than anywhere else. Looking back, I definitely made the right decision." Quigley graduated as a two-time Academic All American in 1991 and then played on the Hooters-Tour-turned-Nike-Tour, now Nationwide Tour, and finally made the PGA Tour in 1997. "I played mini Tours everywhere - just part of the learning curve."

Quigley follows all sports at USC, but finds it difficult to go to games, especially football games. After traveling all year, he likes to stay at home in November and December in Jupiter, Florida where not just Amy and Lilly but their new addition will occupy his time this fall. Quigley has gotten to know Thompson over the last couple of years, as the former USC All American played some PGA events while playing on the Nationwide Tour. Quigley calls Thompson a great player and a great kid. "I think he represents the University very well. He's just a very nice kid and he plays very well."

He has given Thompson some advice about travel and golf, "and to stay away from the Clemson guys," he added with a laugh, while admitting he is good friends with Charles Warren and Lucas Glover, the halfway leader at the Verizon Heritage. Quigley plays a lot of practice rounds with them, just like he did the Tuesday of the Tournament. "We play a lot of practice rounds together, so we give each other a lot of flack."

Looking back, Quigley reflects that his career at Carolina was a solid foundation for his success as a professional golfer. "I wouldn't be the player that I am today without that University experience."

A constant throughout his season is the same desire that Thompson has in his first season on Tour – a PGA Tournament victory.

"You try to win every week, whether it's a major or the Heritage. It's tough - the success rate isn't very high - even Tiger (Woods)."

Quigley was coming off his best season on the PGA Tour, a top 20 finish on the 2006 earnings list, when he played in the Masters, but a knee injury limited him to 25 events in 2007, and forced surgery to repair a medial meniscal tear in September 2007. The road back was not as smooth as Quigley hoped. "It's really taken me a lot longer than I thought it would," reflected Quigley while competing in the Verizon Heritage. "It's kinda been a pretty big speed bump, so I'm trying to get back. I took five months off - I normally don't take five days off - so I had a long time away from the game and it has taken me a longer time to get back than I thought it would."

Quigley practiced at nearby May River course while on Hilton Head and hoped to match or better his Top Ten 2006 finish at Harbour Town. On the back nine during his second round, Quigley put together a string of birdies to reach three under with three holes to play, and had six footer for birdie on the par 4 Sixteenth. The putt slipped past the hole. "Certainly I feel if I can make that one, I can birdie the last two and have a chance to shoot 28 (on the back nine). I was thinking about it, but I'm happy with the round (of 68)." Quigley's closing 31 on the back nine put him comfortably above the cut line at 2 under par, while Thompson missed the cut, along with Warren and Coastal Carolina's Dustin Johnson. "I feel really good. To shoot 31 on the back nine it's a big confidence boost, so I'm excited about playing on the weekend."

The second round was a good part of a great reunion week for Quigley. "(It was) just a nice day for golf. I'd be happy if I was out watching today," he said, joking that he and some of the fellow Tour pros might like to just watch golf and socialize like the fans and media on the beautiful mid-70's day. But then his thoughts turned back to the Tournament and winning. "I had a few chances to make a few more. I'd like to be at 4 under and be at least within shouting distance of the leaders….I gotta shoot six under, six under on the weekend to have a chance to win."

While the 5'11, 160 pound Quigley says his knee is 80-90% and he has no pain when hitting a golf ball or walking, he has not regained his 2006 success where he was seemingly always in the Top 20 of every tournament he played. An extension of his Major Medical Hardship exemption gives him the comfort of playing a full PGA Tour schedule in 2008 and to plan and shoot for the big prize – a PGA Tour victory.

"For me, yeah, winning golf tournaments, that's all that's left to do. I feel like I've got the game, I just haven't done it yet." Quigley won the 1987 U.S. Junior Amateur and the 1996 Philadelphia Classic on the Nationwide Tour, and twice tied for second on that Tour, but has yet to hoist a trophy or don a jacket symbolizing a win against the top golfers in the world.

"I'm going to try like hell," he said smiling. "You move on. I don't ever think about what could have been or what got away." Quigley points out he has been close three times. "(I've) been in a position to do it and I think I've got the game to do it, so I'll keep trying."

Quigley strolls the fairways with the confident gait of one who has succeeded and looks forward to more success. The sweet success of playing on Tour seems to be much better, and is celebrated, when he gets to make his yearly trip to Hilton Head to reunite with his friends from USC and enjoy a week of memories, golf, and especially family. The only real important question in the part of Quigley's mind devoted to golf might be whether he will be able to tell his second daughter that he won his first PGA Tournament before or after she was born.

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