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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Westchester Amateur at Torrey Pines

Michael Quagliano picked up a golf club when he was six and a half and declared that he intended to play the game, according to his father Steve. This week, he’s playing in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, one of eight amateurs in the field.

I interviewed Michael and his parents, Steve and Jean Quagliano, in 2004 as the then-seventeen-year-old was packing to leave his parents' Ardsley, NY, home to begin his freshman year on a full golf scholarship at Duke University in Durham, NC. Michael is a three-time Metropolitan PGA Junior Player of the Year, won the 2008 Met Junior, 2002 MGA/MetLife Boys Championship, and the 2007 Westchester Amateur. Around the time he turned old enough for a driver’s license, he barely missed qualifying to play with the pros by just one stroke at the 2003 Buick Classic at Westchester Country Club. He’s the captain of the golf team at Duke, where he’ll be a senior this year.

I’m avidly following his blog from Torrey Pines, (as told to Dan Berger) where he’s playing his first major championship. Looking back at what I wrote after my interview with him four years ago, I don’t think this will be his last.

"For me," said Michael, "most importantly it's the practice schedule and the work ethic." Michael is a serious person whose bespectacled face is that of a young man whose favorite subject in school is economics, the dismal science. He knows who Alan Greenspan is, even though he confesses to being like the rest of us and not understanding every word the man says. Michael believes in setting goals and working hard to achieve them. He likes to win, too--a lot. "The thrill of competition for me is definitely knowing that you've achieved something and done well, and it also doesn't hurt to know that both you and the other person know that you have prepared better or simply performed better."

Wolfgang Mozart had his father Leopold. Michael Quagliano has Steve, who rowed and coached on the US Olympic team and organizes Michael's career. "Michael's team is fairly large," Steve said. "It's not just Michael and his mommy and daddy. It's Dr. Tom Crawford, director of physiology, Dr. Jonathan Katz, sports psychologist, Dr. Karen Dolan, nutritionist, Carl Alexander, his swing coach, and Jim O'Mara, who's kind of a family mentor. I kind of manage each area and try to hold them together and use what we need to move forward." When I wrote the original article, Alexander was head pro at Glen Arbor Country Club, where Michael is a special junior intern member. O'Mara, Michael's first golf instructor, is Director of Golf at the TPC Golf Course in Boston.

Steve also works out the tournament schedule and arranges trips to the Titleist golf equipment factory where Michael is fitted with custom-made clubs provided at no cost by the company much as they do for PGA tour pros (strictly in accordance with NCAA rules, of course).

One of the biggest roles played by the parents is traveling companion, a job which is tiring and time-consuming, but one which has rewards of its own. Jean Quagliano said, "I wouldn't say that I'm sacrificing anything; I would say that it actually strengthened and enriched our relationship. Think about it: there aren't that many things that would put you together so much like that."
"There are way too many things to achieve and way too many records that have to be broken by someone," Michael says with a steady gaze. "If you like what you're doing and you want that, then there's really no end to it."

Another fun tidbit from the small-world-of-golf department: Dave Gagnon, who will be caddying for Michael at Torrey Pines, is a teaching pro at GlenArbor that I’ve known for several years. My best wishes to both.
Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

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