Quinn travels looking for qualifier

How far would you go to get your PGA Tour card?

For Brian Quinn of Philadelphia, the answer is about 3,000 miles.

Of the 50 golfers competing in the Stage 1 PGA Tour/Nike Tour qualifying in Dayton this week, Quinn has traveled the farthest to compete. Before this week, Quinn had never been to Nevada, much less played at Dayton Valley Country Club - a somewhat ironic fact considering Quinn has played at far more exotic locales while on the Asian PGA Tour.

Sight unseen, Quinn chose to play at Dayton Valley out of the 13 sites for Stage 1 qualifying based on the advice of a friend, Billy Downs, and Dayton Valley's reputation. He played three practice rounds at the course on Saturday, Sunday and Monday before starting the tourney on Tuesday

"Dayton Valley is a good test of golf," said Quinn, who played his collegiate golf at Temple. "A relatively high number (score) makes it through (to Stage 2).

"The tougher the course, the better it seems a golfer's chances are. Comparably speaking, last week some golfers (at another Stage 1 qualifier) didn't make the cut with a -8 or -9, while a -3 or -4 could make the cut here."

To make the cut at the Dayton Valley Stage 1 qualifier, which concludes today, a golfer needs to finish within the top 22 (in some cases, top 21) places to advance to one of six Stage 2 qualifiers, the closest of which will be held in Fort Ord, Calif. All told, 468 golfers advance to the second stage.

The pressure continues through Stage 2, where golfers must finish in the top 28 to advance to the final stage, which is set for the Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami from Nov. 17-22. At that six-round tournament (108 holes), the top 35 receive a PGA Tour membership for 2000. The next 50 receive exempt Nike Tour memberships, and the rest of the field gets conditional Nike Tour exemptions for next year.

"This is our version of the Ryder Cup," said Quinn, whose brother, Fran Jr., is No. 18 on the Nike Tour money leader list. "You just try to hit it into the fairway and take it one shot at a time."

Quinn sounded satisfied with his choice of qualifying site.

"The course is fantastic - there is no better conditioned course for qualifying," said Quinn, who noted the bent-grass greens at Dayton Valley are similar to those he experienced while growing up in the South. "There are some very demanding holes, especially in the wind."

Quinn said the cost of traveling across the country for qualifying is a non-factor - a small marginal cost considering the $4,000 registration fee paid by each golfer.

"You don't even take it into consideration," said Quinn, who played prep golf for St. John's High in Shrewsbury, Mass., and is making his fifth attempt for his Tour card.

Quinn at least knows one person well at the tournament. His father, Fran Sr., is out from Massachusetts to watch the qualifying.

"I get more nervous when watching than playing," said the elder Quinn. "These golfers can play great all week long and then miss shots on the final day - if you have a bad week, you're history."

Through three rounds, Quinn is on the cusp of advancing. After 54 holes, he's tied with eight other golfers with the core of 215 after rounds of 72, 71, and 72.

One of the players Quinn is tied with is Reno's James Watt, a former Nevada golfer. Other former Nevada golfers in the field are Justin Peters, 41st after three rounds (219), and Rich Barcelo, 34th with his 217.

Tom Kalinowski of Scottsdale, Ariz., (68-63-69-200) is comfortably in the lead, six strokes ahead of Tom Nam of Covina, Calif. The final round begins today at 9:30 a.m.

Even if Quinn fails to qualify today, one gets the feeling he'll be back in Nevada sometime soon.

"I love it out here - out West," Quinn said.


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