Kite shoots matching pair of 32s

Updated: October 22, 2004, 12:43 AM ET
Associated Press

SONOMA, Calif. -- Dana Quigley walked the course in a rhapsodic haze Thursday, still enthralled by the improbable success of his beloved Boston Red Sox.

When he finally woke up, the Champions Tour's most durable player found himself in second place after the first round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship with a 7-under 65, one stroke behind Tom Kite.

All of a sudden, the long-suffering Red Sox can't lose -- and one of their biggest fans can't play much better golf.

"I told my wife this morning that I felt different today than in any first round I've ever played," Quigley said. "I couldn't pinpoint why, but I'm sure it's because my mind is somewhere else. My mind is on the Red Sox. It really has taken my mind off being nervous about golf."

Boston beat the New York Yankees 10-3 Wednesday night to cap a comeback from a 3-0 deficit to won the best-of-seven AL championship series.

Quigley and Kite played outstanding first rounds amid the standing water at Sonoma Golf Course on the first day of the tour's season-ending event, where the winner gets $435,000 and the winner of the season-long Schwab Cup competition takes home a $1 million annuity.

Hale Irwin, in third place with a 66, leads the Schwab Cup standings by 39 points over Craig Stadler, who matched Morris Hatalsky and Jose Maria Canizares with a 68.

But even the rest of the pros were thrilled for Quigley, a baseball junkie who grew up in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. From his red hat to the goatee he's growing to honor Boston's hairy roster, Quigley's mind was on the World Series while he played at Sonoma Golf Club.

"It was the easiest round of golf I played on tour this year," said Quigley, who thought about frosting his hair blond to honor Kevin Millar before choosing chin hair. "I never fretted or sweated over a single shot. Just by being relaxed, I think I was able to play good golf. Now I'm in here thanking the Red Sox for a great first round."

This devotion is a family thing for Quigley. His 91-year-old mother, Dot, is among the oldest and most devoted fans in the entire Red Sox Nation. She was born in 1913 -- a year after Fenway Park opened -- and was a budding fan the last time Boston won the World Series in 1918.

Her son collects Red Sox memorabilia for her, and she watches nearly every game on television -- including the West Coast games. They spoke after the Sox finished off the Yankees.

"I told her she's going to see a world champion in Boston before she dies," Quigley said.

Quigley was still on the course in the pro-am portion of the event when Game 7 against the Yankees began Wednesday night. He got so many cell phone calls from friends providing updates that a few of the amateurs complained about the ringing.

He was on the ninth green when Jim Thorpe's caddie told him about Johnny Damon's grand slam.

"I'm sure he was gloating like crazy, as he should be," said Kite, who lives in Austin, Texas, and roots for the Houston Astros. "I'm pleased, but I didn't expect to see these kinds of scores."

The players praised the revamped Sonoma course, but bemoaned the standing water still left over from Tuesday's rainstorm. The greens were difficult and the rough was murderous -- and yet the leaders still set a pace that could exceed Thorpe's tournament-winning 20 under from last year, when the course was much easier.

While Quigley played bogey-free golf and Kite cruised with two exceptional long putts, Irwin struggled to keep up, making six par saves.

"I got a whole stack of flour to make some bread. I was grinding out there," said Irwin, a Cardinals fan who was born in Missouri and lived in St. Louis for many years. "If I'd had some grapes, I'd have made some wine."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press