U.S. Open: At 57, Fran Quinn Shows It's Never Too Late To Chase The Dream - MASSGOLF

Fran Quinn, Who Overcame a Devastating Injury, Made A Decision Last Winter To Give It Another Go At The U.S. Open

BROOKLINE, Massachusetts – Fran Quinn received a text from New England Patriots Head Team Physician Dr. Mark Price earlier this week that read: “Okay…for the first time in a long time I’ll be watching the U.S. Open. I’m psyched for you. LETS GO!!!”

While Quinn, the 57-year-old who lives in Worcester suburb of Holden, qualified for this year’s U.S. Open at The Country Club on the merits of his own playing ability, Dr. Price played a significant role in his recovery from an injury that could have derailed this opportunity. In summer 2019, while visiting his son Sean in New York City, Quinn tripped in a pothole, fell and injured his right shoulder. An x-ray later revealed a 25 percent fracture in the glenoid bone of his right shoulder socket, which required arthroscopic surgery conducted by Price and forced him to sit out the rest of the 2019 season and much of 2020.

“It was really brutal,” Quinn said before his practice round Wednesday. “I didn’t hit a [golf] ball for 18 months. Now I’m limited in some things. I can’t throw a football or a baseball anymore, but I can sure swing a golf club so that’s a good thing.”

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Indeed it is, as his career on the PGA Tour Champions is back on track. However he has no exemptions, sponsor or otherwise, to play in major tournaments like the U.S. Open. But he credits his son Owen for giving him the encouragement to get into the U.S. Open the old-fashioned way — through qualifying.

“This week was never really on my radar,” Quinn said. “Back in February, Owen called me and said, ‘I’m going to Taconic Golf Club [for U.S. Open Local Qualifying], what do you think?” I said, ‘You know what, put me in too, and he entered me, and the rest is history.”

Both father and son advanced through Taconic and then last Monday at the Final Qualifier at Old Oaks and Century in Purchase, New York. Fran prevailed in an 8-for-3 playoff alongside Wellesley native Michael Thorbjornsen, a 20-year-old rising junior at Stanford University. Quinn became the oldest player in 40 years to qualify into the U.S. Open. He’ll now prepare to compete against some of the world’s best golfers, many of whom are half his age. But Quinn has some home field advantage, not only from prior course knowledge, but the enthusiasm from friendly faces in the crowd.

“I’ve always had great fan support here in New England through the years, and this has just taken it to another level,” said Quinn, who last played in the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. “Every tee people are yelling, and it’s been a lot of fun.”

Fran Quinn, right, readies for his tee shot during his final practice round Wednesday at The Country Club. Quinn’s son Owen will be on the bag as he was in 2014. (Mass Golf)

Though the original intention was for both Quinns to qualify for the U.S. Open, it turns out they’ll work together again this week. After the New York qualifier, Fran said his wife Lori would be on the bag, as she has been for the past year-plus on the Champions Tour. But after seeing the course Monday, he chose Owen, who caddied for him in 2014 as a fresh-faced 15-year-old high schooler. 

“There’s some tricky lines and so forth and change in direction so it’s just very complicated,” Quinn said. “It’s not a golf course I’ve played a lot, and I think our two minds together could be a little bit more beneficial. But [Lori] has been a fantastic caddie and done a great job, but I just think it’s the best for us.”

“It was all her decision,” added Owen, a 23-year-old current professional who played the 2019 Mass Amateur at The Country Club. “I said, ‘Mom, you did all the work together, this is your bag. And she said I feel way better if you’re doing it.”

Even with the decision, Lori said she’s been embraced by the fans as well. “Local fans we want pictures with Fran obviously, but some of them say, ‘Lori jump in!'” Lori said.

Quinn played here throughout the 80s, and won medalist honors at the U.S. Junior Amateur Qualifier in 1985. After losing the Mass Amateur final match in 1987 to Kevin Johnson, he tried to qualify the next year for the U.S. Open at The Country Club but came up short.

“In 1988 I missed by one stroke and sat out on that practice tee, and my dad put his arm around my shoulder and said ‘Hey, you’re going to play a lot of these. Don’t worry about it. And 34 years later, here I am teeing it up at The Country Club on my home turf. Pretty cool.”

As for they keys to competition in his fifth and potential final go around in a U.S. Open, Quinn said hitting drives well and making 6-8 foot putts will be crucial. With the golf course firming up over the last few days, “the golf course is definitely going to get more difficult as the week goes on,” Quinn said.

Quinn also had been granted the honors of teeing off first from hole 10 in Thursday’s opening round at 6:45. He’ll be playing with England’s Callum Tarren and Tennessee’s Hayden Buckley. 

“I think it’s such an honor to be able to do that here in our home state with our history in the game here in Massachusetts, on the biggest stage,” he said. “It’s such a thrill, and I’m looking forward to it.”

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