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Posted 09 Apr 2001   For week ended April 06, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 05Apr01

By Kent Larsen

A Potential Star's First Masters

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA -- He is experiencing all the traditions in golf's most traditional setting. Saturday and Sunday night he spent the night in the Crow's Nest, the sleeping quarters in the clubhouse reserved for amateurs, just like Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. He had the chance to browse the clubhouse golf library and visit the lockerroom reserved for past champions. Monday he was honored at a banquet and Tuesday, except for the rain, he would have played a practice round with Arnold Palmer and Sergio Garcia. And yesterday he played in the annual three-par tournament.

But all that was just icing on the cake. Today his name will appear on the leaderboard, along with the defending champions of the major golf tournaments. And sometime this morning, Jeff Quinney, an LDS Church member from Eugene, Oregon, will start the first round of the Masters, paired with defending champion Vijay Singh.

Its all part of the tradition, a right Quinney won when he became the US Amateur Champion last August. When he pulled that off, Sports Illustrated crowned him "Master of Disaster" for his remarkable comebacks in the third round and quarterfinals and his 30-foot birdie put in the sudden-death playoff.

The tradition doesn't stop with the Masters, either. Quinney also has invitations to play in the US Open and British Open, where he will also be paired with the defending champions, Tiger Woods in both cases. Then he also has exceptions that will allow him to play in seven PGA Tour events. Ordinarily players that are not on the tour must compete to win one of the open slots for each tournament. The open slots will be a big boost to the 22-year old Arizona State University student's plan to turn pro this fall.

Jeff Quinney is the youngest of the four sons of Bob and Leslie Quinney. Brought up going to sports activities with his family, Jeff would tag along as his mother drove his older brothers to junior golf tournaments. It soon became apparent that Jeff had a knack for golf, "It was obvious that Jeff ha a knack for golf," says his father, Bob Quinney, a lawyer in Eugene who also claims a 5-handicap. "I'd watch him hit a couple of buckets of balls at 2 1/2 or 3 years old, and he'd very seldom ever whiff, even at that age."

But it wasn't apparent that Jeff would play golf. For several years his choice was basketball, and at age 15 he was on an AAU team that won the national title. After a successful career at Eugene's South High, Quinney could have played college basketball, but he realized his future was in golf.

At age 14, his father had taken Jeff to Riveridge Country Club for a lesson with pro Al Mundle, considered by some the best teacher in the Northwest. Mundle says he saw something special in Quinney, both because of his fluid and natural swing, and his poise, "His attitude is perfect for any sport, and it's perfect for golf. He has a lot of patience, a lot of self-control, and he's very competitive. He's a very poised young man."

Perhaps his most memorable moment came when he burst upon the national scene at the Rolex Tournament of Champions in Scottsdale, Arizona. After losing a sudden-death playoff for a berth in the US Junior Amateur tournament, he missed his scheduled flight to Phoenix for the Rolex Tournament. A substitute flight left him stuck in Las Vegas because of bad weather. He finally arrived in Phoenix at 6:30 am, just in time for an 8 am tee time. Quinney had no sleep and was playing a course he had never seen before and still managed to shoot a 70 and win an ensuing "horse race" of the top ten finishers.

"That was the talk of the tournament, the guy who flew all night, didn't have any sleep and shot 70," says his father, Bob Quinney. "All the college coaches were there. That put him on the map." Particularly impressed was Oklahoma State's coach, Mike Holder. The coach of the powerhouse NCAA team later told Bob Quinney, "Mr. Quinney, do you know how good a swing this is? Do you really know how good a swing this is?"

Jeff Quinney ended up going to Arizona State, where he wasn't sure he would make the starting team and considered redshirting. Fortunately for Arizona State he didn't, and was ASU's top finisher in three events and placed 11th in the NCAA championships. The next year he came close to setting an NCAA record by shooting one of the lowest rounds in NCAA history, a final-round 62.

Preparing for the Master's hasn't been all honors, however. Quinney had schedule conflicts that kept him from coming to Augusta to play the course ahead of time, managing finally to get to the course just two years ago. He arrived with his father, who was able to play with him only after the club's officials managed to find a member to invite him to play as a guest. (Jeff can play there for the year because of his Amateur Championship).

Quinney also struggled with who to ask to be his caddie, trying to balance family and friends with someone who knew the course. He considered his oldest brother, Rob, who played golf in college and family friend and former Eugene, Oregon resident Danny Ainge, a fellow LDS Church member. But it was Ainge who helped Quinney resolve the issue. He called Tiger Woods for advice, suggesting to the eager Ainge that, for Quinney's sake, he bow out in favor of someone who knew the course. Quinney has ended up with Augusta National veteran caddie Robert Bass.

Quinney, paired with defending champion Vijay Singh, was scheduled to tee off for the first round at 12:13 pm Eastern time.


Quinney crams for major test
Eugene OR Register-Guard 4Apr01 S2
By Ron Bellamy: Register-Guard

Amateur champ savoring every moment at Masters
Seattle WA Times 4Apr01 S2

Masterful moment: Eugene's Jeff Quinney faces the challenge of playing the best in one of golf's elite events
Eugene OR Register-Guard 29Mar01 S2
By Ron Bellamy: Register-Guard

Student gets a chance to take his teacher places
Eugene OR Register-Guard 2Apr01 S2
By Ron Bellamy: Register-Guard

At Augusta, tradition tops leaderboard
Eugene OR Register-Guard 4Apr01 S2
By Ron Bellamy: Register-Guard


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