BROOKLINE, Mass. — He’s the most unlikely player on the field, and we’re not exaggerating. Fran Quinn is far from the only 57-year-old to play in a major championship, but he didn’t get his playing time here thanks to his past victories. This was not a special exemption for a Hall of Famer. He worked his way through the local and final qualifiers, and is now at the US Open in his home state of Massachusetts. Fran Quinn earned it. He is the oldest qualifier for this tournament since at least 1982, when the USGA started keeping track of this kind of thing.
Quinn is a good officer, and we mean that as a compliment. A man who has played professional golf since graduating from Northwestern in 1988. He has held a PGA Tour card on a few different occasions, most recently in 2010, but has only one top-10 finish in 71 career starts. The meaty part of his golfing life was on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour, where he played more than 366 events and won four times. He is now plying his trade, again, a true Golf Lifer, on the PGA Tour Champions, where he has played full-time since 2017.
His son, Owen, is also a professional golfer. He is also the impetus for his father’s most unlikely career to Brookline.
“I was playing Tucson on the Champions Tour, and my son called me and said he was playing (a Local Qualifier) at Taconic,” says Quinn. “I told him, ‘Why don’t you put us both in?’ I said, you know what, let’s both get there. Let’s both go to the US Open this year.’”
Quinn hadn’t even attempted to qualify for a US Open since 2014, when he also made it through both qualifying stages, then made the cut at No. 2 Pinehurst, opening with a two-under 68 that had him tied. per second before an eventual T-52 end. His career nearly ended when he fractured his glenoid, a bone in his shoulder, after hitting a pothole in New York City in 2019. Quinn had surgery in July but was only able to raise his arm to shoulder height. shoulder until a second surgery in June 2020 threw his career a lifeline. He fast-forwarded two years, and his game had improved to the point where he felt he would give the US Open a shot.
Both Quinn boys shot 1-over-71s at the Local Qualifying in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and both competed in the Final Qualifying at Old Oaks and Century in Purchase, New York. The older Quinn edged out his son in the first round of the 36-hole day at Century, 69 vs. 70, only for Owen to be knocked out of contention on his first nine at Old Oaks. Fran, however, never fell out of contention.
“After 27 holes, it got really real,” he said, “because I was four down for the day until a couple of untimely bogeys at the end made things difficult.”
Tight indeed. Quinn finished 2-under through 36 holes and earned a place in an eight-out-of-three qualifier to reach The Country Club. That tiebreaker could have worked as an announcement of all that’s right with the qualifying process: There were three pros from the mini tour, the best 17-year-old in the country; a stud college player; a longtime Korn Ferry Tour player and PGA Tour card holder; and Quinn.
All eight players made par on the first hole of the playoffs. The second, Old Oak 18, is an uphill par 5 that youngsters could easily reach. Quinn swung the drive into the right rough and was forced to make a layup, only to hit his third to within two feet for a birdie. The perfect way to let the geezer in.
And so Quinn can now play what he says will be his last major championship just a 45-minute drive from his hometown of Worcester. As for expectations, Quinn fully believes that he is physically capable of walking around. He doesn’t intend to shoot 80-80, smile at his friends and family in the crowd and call it a day.
“Obviously these kids hit him and hit him much, much further than I did,” Quinn said. “But also, I still move it quite far. Very competitive. I hope to play decent.
“This being a home game, I thought, why not give it a try? And I look back, in ’88, the last time they had the Open here, I lost (ranking) by one in Buy. And I was sitting on that driving range and my dad, God rest his soul, he had his arm around me and said, ‘Franny, you’re going to play a lot of these.’ And who would have thought that 34 years later, he would be playing at the Country Club, in Boston, at 57 years old. Pretty impressive.”