During his drinking days, Dana Quigley said he was
During his drinking days, Dana Quigley said he was "breaking everyone's heart but my own, because I was too drunk to worry about it." (Photo: Getty Images)

Quigley's 'fantasy trip' was almost a crash landing

Dana Quigley is known these days as the Champions Tour "Iron Man" with a record 264 consecutive tournaments entered and as last year's leading money winner. But a decade ago he was known to those around him as an alcoholic.

By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor

EDMOND, Okla. -- Golf is life for Dana Quigley.

But, it wasn't always that way for the Champions Tour's 2005 leading money winner. See, he has an addictive personality. Golf has always been one of his vices, but for a long time, so was alcohol.

"I got into drinking pretty strong when I was on the regular tour from 1978 to 1982," he said after a 2 under par 69 in the first round of the 67th Senior PGA Championship on Thursday had him near the top of the leaderboard. "And if you're someone that drinks a lot, you don't ever think you particularly have the problem. You think you can handle it and everything's under control, when in reality you don't have any control over it, or you wouldn't be an alcoholic. But in 1988 [and 1989] I had a couple of car accidents, myself and a tree. And trees, I don't know if you have heard the axiom, but trees don't move when you hit them. You'd think a car going some kind of speed would just mow down a tree, but you can't. I mean they just crack you up pretty bad."

After the second accident, the vice president of Crestwood Country Club in Rehoboth, Mass. -- where Quigley was the Head PGA Professional -- demanded that Quigley enter Butler Hospital, a rehab clinic in Rhode Island.

Quigley spent 30 days at Butler and said he got educated about his problem with alcohol abuse. That was in September of 1988.

For six months, Quigley didn't have a drink and began to figure he'd be able to handle a glass of wine with dinner. Once his tournament season started in New England, he did just that.

The wine was poison, woke up the old demons, and before he knew it, Quigley had fallen off the wagon hard.

"I spent until 1990 probably another year, maybe 12 or 14 months, drinking heavily again," he said. "Breaking everyone's heart but my own, because I was too drunk to worry about it."

While in West Palm Beach, Fla., in the winter of 1990, Quigley said he drove from the course "half lit" on his way to meet some friends at a restaurant. That's when he had a long-overdue epiphany that has since changed his life, both personally and professionally.

"I was going 70 mph down 95 and my exit was coming up," Quigley recalled. "And I was kind of like having a fight with myself, saying, 'you know, why don't you go home? No, I don't want to go home,' this and that. I got very close to the exit, and it was 50-50 whether I did it or not, but I just absolutely swerved the car off the road, down the exit, went home and that night I decided I wasn't going to drink any more."

He hasn't since, but the urge hasn't left him.

"It's still a problem every day," he admitted. "I would love to have about a six-pack of beer right now. It would be perfect after this heat. But I can't do it, so it's something that I don't deal with, I don't feel like I have an option to deal with it, so I don't even, I don't worry about it, I don't say, 'poor me,' and all this crap, but it's certainly a problem and it's a widespread problem in the world and I was just really lucky and glad, and with the good Lord's help I was able to. You don't ever conquer it, but I was able to deal with it every day and not drink."

Since kicking the bottle to the side, Quigley, now 59, has enjoyed a prosperous career on the Champions Tour with 10 wins.

He's regarded as the Tour's Iron Man, as he seemingly made up for lost time playing in 264 consecutive tournaments before skipping the 2005 Senior British Open because of a back ailment.

In 2006, Quigley has endured blood pressure problems and has had some forced time off. He hasn't been able to play competitively as often as he'd like, which is not to suggest he hasn't played a bunch.

"I don't get away from the golf course, I still play every day at West Palm when I'm home," he said. "It's just that my routine changes a little. I don't play at 7:30, I'm usually in the doctor's office at 8 o'clock every morning and he does a bunch of tests on me. But I found that, I think I found out this year for the first time that I really enjoy being home. To be honest with you, the last 10 years I didn't. No. 1, I don't go home and No. 2, I never thought I could be home and enjoy it and watch the golf on TV. So it does prove to me that I'm going to have a life after all this fantasy world that I've been on, this fantasy trip I've been on for the last 10 years."

His fantasy trip has been sobering to say the least.

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