Quinney hot as a Sun Devil

IAN HUTCHINSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- This upscale town in the Valley of the Sun boasts more than 50 golf courses within its borders and more than 200 in the general vicinity, but despite its envious reputation as a place to play golf, it strips away the decorum normally associated with the game when the PGA Tour comes to town.

The inmates of the FBR Open are always boisterous, but the decibel level goes considerably higher for a graduate of the local alma mater that calls its players and teams Sun Devils.

Phil Mickelson, an Arizona State product who hails from San Diego, has been unofficially adopted by Scottsdale, while the stock of Jeff Quinney, a native of Eugene, Ore., is also rising in the desert.

The former U.S. Amateur champ is making a run at tour rookie of the year after finishing in the top 10 in his last four tournaments, a stretch that saw him break par in 15 of 17 rounds.

It has been a startling beginning to the season for Quinney, 28, who spent five seasons on the Nationwide Tour before getting his shot after finishing sixth on that circuit's money list last season.

"I knew I was getting better every year. I was kind of making swing changes about three years ago. It took a little bit of time to really implement those and be able to trust those, but I just knew I was getting better," he said.

Quinney's jump to the PGA Tour hardly would be described as a slow process. His first win seems so close, but there have been rookie moments so far. He was hanging tough with Tiger Woods at the Buick Invitational before a double bogey on the 14th hole in the final round knocked him out of contention.

Quinney has made a habit out of winning in front of partisan fans after winning his first professional tournament, a Canadian Tour event, in Scottsdale in 2002 and taking his first Nationwide Tour event in his home state at the 2004 Oregon Classic.

It looked as if Quinney would continue that trend at this year's FBR Open where he held the 36 and 54-hole leads only to bogey the last two holes and drop to third as his Scottsdale neighbour Aaron Baddeley birdied three of the last four holes to steal the win.

"We live pretty close to each other and have mutual friends and everything. If I didn't win, I guess I'm glad a local guy won," Quinney said.

Still, the partisan Scottsdale fans would have no problem seeing a Sun Devil win in Arizona, but attention from fans is something Quinney will have to deal with as his career progresses.

"It's your choice how you handle it. I choose to have fun with it and just embrace it. People are there to have a good time, want you to succeed and they're behind you," said Quinney, who realized he couldn't allow the disappointment of the moment to overwhelm him.

"You don't really get it out of you. You maybe sit down and evaluate after the round. I was putting great all week and I stepped up to the ball pretty confidently. It just didn't go where I wanted it to -- that's golf," said Quinney, who continued his success with a tie for ninth at Riviera just over a week ago.

BRIGHT FUTURE

The more familiar turf out west is behind him now as Quinney and the rest of the tour begin the Florida swing this week at the Honda Classic, a tournament where breakthrough victories have been abundant with five of the past 11 champs being first-time winners.

There are bound to be rough spots ahead, but Quinney seems to be about staying even through the highs and lows of his rookie year.

"I've basically locked up my tour card for next year and it's February. I've got a lot of golf left, a lot of tournaments. I'm just going to look back and learn a few things, but all in all, I'm pretty happy. If you would have told me this (at the beginning of the season), I'd take that in a second."


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