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Quinn Riley making a lifelong dream come true at the John Deere Classic

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Riley paved the way for those opportunities with a strong senior season at Duke. He delighted family and friends when he first won the Stitch Intercollegiate, played at Lonnie Poole Golf Course at NC State, where Riley takes lessons from Chase Duncan. His scoring average for the season was 72.38.

A heartbreaking finish at the Rex Hospital Open ushered in a dose of perspective for Riley. He was within the cutoff by two strokes when he played his penultimate hole on Friday only to triple bogey and miss the weekend by a shot.

“I learned that I can compete on the Korn Ferry Tour,” says Riley. “…I learned how to just deal with the angst and knowing that there will be more rounds of golf after that and how to move forward and find the positives.

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“But from that moment on, I learned that you can always slow down during a high-pressure situation. You can always slow down more than you think… and think things through a little more.”

Riley was born in Minneapolis, but moved to Raleigh “before she could walk,” she says. His parents divorced when he was 10 years old, and Riley became more than just a big brother to Morgan, who was 3 at the time and is now an accomplished golfer in his own right.

“I guess that was a little bit of a boost to having to grow up earlier,” says Riley. “I was always trying to be a good example for my little brother and help out in a way…raise him and follow him and take care of him and stuff, like I kept him on my shoulders the whole time until now.”

Riley first played golf with his uncle when they were abroad on a business trip with his mother. He liked the fact that he could play the game with a larger figure in his life. On one of those trips, the three of them even visited St. Andrews.

“When I got back from those trips, I’d go and hit balls on a driving range just for fun, like every once in a while,” says Riley. “And then it became a habit and a hobby and eventually a kind of obsession.”

Riley soon found his way to First Tee – Triangle, where he received his first informal golf instruction. He developed a peer group of other golfers and gained self-confidence, as well as learning to be courteous and treat others with respect.

“I think that did a lot to develop me as a young man,” he says.

Interestingly, Riley is one of only five players playing in the John Deere Classic with ties on the First Tee, including Smotherman, who is in his group through the first two rounds. Smotherman met with the winners of the John Deere Power for Good contest on Tuesday, while First Tee Greater Sacramento alumnus Cameron Champ hosted a clinic on Wednesday. Additionally, Patrick Flavin and Nick Hardy, ambassadors for First Tee-Greater Chicago, are donating money to that chapter for the birdies and eagles they make.

In 2015, Riley was selected to play in what is now called the Pure Insurance Championship, where he teamed with Corey Pavin, on PGA TOUR Champions. The experience, which unites First Tee golfers with Champions Tour pros at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill, proved pivotal.

“It was amazing,” says Riley. “I still remember it, only my conclusion was that these are the greats of the game, but I was able to play with them and hang out with them. So I think that gave me a lot of confidence to go ahead with golf, knowing that that’s where I want to be. That’s the kind of experiences I want to have. I want to compete on these amazing golf courses.

“So that led me to take golf more seriously.”

Seriously, he’s playing on the PGA TOUR this week and working hard to get there full time in the future.

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