Fran Quinn knew his odds of making the U.S. Open weren't great. He's 57.
But when his 23-year-old son, Owen, said he was going to try to qualify, Fran figured that with the tournament happening right down the road from his house this year, it might be worth it. He told Owen, "You know what, throw me in there, too."
That $200 entry fee was worth it.
Quinn will be the oldest player to tee it up at The Country Club this week. The PGA Tour Champions pro is making his fifth appearance at the U.S. Open, bookending this one — a mere 40-minute drive from his hometown of Holden — with his debut at Pebble Beach in 1992.
"It wasn't really on my schedule," Quinn conceded, after playing a back-nine practice round on Monday with his wife, Lori, carrying the bag and Owen shooting distances from the fairway. "It's just really exciting. And I'm playing some solid golf."
Quinn isn't unlike many of the 65 players who made the field through qualifying. A good number are journeymen and grinders. All are hoping to catch fire for a round, or two, or four, and cash a check and maybe move up the rankings on whatever tour they're on. Hardly any come in thinking they could be the next Ken Venturi or Orville Moody, who are the only two players in the history of the U.S. Open, which dates to 1895, to win after making it through local and sectional qualifying.
What makes Quinn different is his age. Sure, the U.S. Open gives a spot to the winner of the U.S. Senior Open — an honor that belongs to 52-year-old Jim Furyk this year. And yes, Tom Watson made the cut in 2010 at age 60 and Jack Nicklaus did the same back in 1998 when he was 58. Sam Snead was racking up top-10 finishes at the PGA Championship in his 60s.
But theirs are all household names. Quinn's? Not quite, though he does have a lengthy resume. He's been playing Champions Tour events since 2015. Before that, he made 366 starts and won four times on the Korn Ferry Tour, which led to 71 more starts on the PGA Tour, mostly in the 1990s and 2000s. But to put into perspective how fickle this game is, he did not make it through the local qualifying round for the U.S. Senior Open.
He did make it for the main event.
Well-known in these parts, Quinn has been getting his fair share of love from the gallery during his practice rounds. He's played The Country Club a dozen or more times over the years. Never quite like this.
"The fairways are tighter, the rough thicker," Quinn said. "It's pretty firm out there. And they've lengthened it a lot since the last time I played here."
His son Owen was captain of the Lehigh golf team and recently turned pro. Owen and Fran shot matching 1-over 72s in the local round of qualifying; they both teed it up at Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
That earned them spots in the 36-hole sectional in Purchase, New York. Fran shot 2 under for two rounds and was one of three players to advance out of an eight-man playoff for the final spots. Owen shot 4 over and missed the playoff by six shots.
"He's got game," Fran said of his son. "He's long, he's strong. He flies it 325 yards, and he's still learning how to play at that level."
Owen will get to watch that level close-up this week at The Country Club, much as he did in 2014 — Fran's last trip to the U.S. Open.
Owen got some air time that week at Pinehurst while carrying the bag for his dad, who was tied for second after the first round and on the top half of the leaderboard heading into the weekend.
"In the third round, I hit 15 greens and shot 7 over," Fran said. "I missed (putts) seven times inside of 6 feet. So that was the difference."
This might be the perfect place to say that, at age 57, Quinn is thrilled simply to have a chance to soak it all in one more time — and on a course so close to home, at that.
But no. Asked what a good week would look like for him, Quinn said: "To be in contention."
"I'm playing well right now," he said. "I'm here to play golf."