2005: A surprise leading man in picture-perfect finish

By Rex Hoggard

Ligonier, Pa.

One didn’t want to win. Another didn’t feel like he belonged. And the triumvirate was filled out by a player who never thought he could lose. In the end, the Doberman-sized trophy went to the slump-shouldered father of six with a Jimmy Stewart fetish. Such is life in the Laurel Highlands.

Mild-mannered Mike Reid added his name to the list of Senior PGA Championship winners but it wasn’t for a lack of trying otherwise.

With Reid, family is first. Prior to the Senior PGA, he attended his son-in-law’s graduation from the University of Utah, caddied for his 18-year-old son at U.S. Open local qualifying, attended his 8-year-old daughter’s dance festival and, when he had time, honed his game for the season’s first senior major.

On Friday, after the second of his four consecutive 70s, Reid skipped the range altogether and headed to the Stewart Museum in nearby Indiana, Pa.

“(Stewart) lived in an era and was part of the kind of movies that you don’t have to ask about ratings,” Reid, 50, said. “You take your children to them.”

To the very end of four cool, damp days at Laurel Valley Golf Club, what championship hopes Reid had seemed to be for his opponent. Even when his bid for his first victory in almost 17 years was within reach following a dramatic eagle at the 72nd hole, he inwardly hoped Jerry Pate would end the drama by holing a slippery par putt.

“I was thinking I hope Jerry makes it. I’m tired. I don’t want to go out there again (for a playoff),” said Reid in a line that was signature Stewart.

Pate missed his par attempt, capping a pedestrian 2-over week on Laurel Valley’s benign 472-yard 18th and leaving him tied with Reid and Dana Quigley at 8-under 280. On the first playoff hole – the 18th, of course – Reid two-putted for birdie to collect his first major title and only his third victory in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.

Reid’s victory also helped make up for two major misses in 1989, when he led the Masters before faltering down the stretch to finish sixth, three shots out of a playoff. Five months later, he was in charge with three holes to play at the PGA Championship before a bogey-double bogey stretch on Nos. 16 and 17 left him a stroke shy of Payne Stewart at Kemper Lakes.

The playoff at Laurel Valley, however, was necessitated almost as much by what Pate didn’t do.

From the middle of the 18th fairway with a three-shot lead over Reid and a one-stroke advantage over Quigley, Pate decided to lay up short of the pond guarding the front of the green from 191 yards.

The layup and approach were executed well enough. The proceeding putts were not.

“It was just a bad decision I made,” said Pate, whose erratic putting of late has prompted him to use four different putters in his past four tournaments. “I wasn’t even thinking of laying up, to be honest. But I discussed it with my caddie and I laid up. So I have to accept that.”

For most of the final round, the tournament was a long-distance match between Pate and Quigley, who started the round with the lead and was playing in the group ahead of Pate.

Quigley began his final 18 after finishing his rain-delayed third round earlier in the day with a birdie-birdie flourish for 66. He recovered from back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 11 and 12 and led by two shots with five holes to play. But he couldn’t recover from a long approach at No. 18.

After birdies at the 18th the first three days, Quigley got tangled in the bunker behind the green and had to scramble just to make par and get into the playoff. He was eliminated quickly after hitting the same utility-club approach into the water in the playoff.

After eight seasons on the Champions Tour, Quigley is still searching for his first major. What he’s not seeking any longer is a sense of belonging.

Despite a stellar club pro career, Quigley’s short time on the PGA Tour in the late 1970s was marred by insecurity. According to golf’s Iron Man, self-doubt and alcohol were his kryptonite.

“When I was out there in those days I was very intimidated by all the top players,” Quigley said on the eve of the final round. “I really just didn’t think I belonged, and I made sure I sabotaged myself with alcohol and staying out at night so that I made sure that I didn’t belong.”

One person who had no problem fitting in at Laurel Valley was Arnold Palmer. He learned the game 8 miles down Highway 30 at Latrobe Country Club and is a longtime Laurel Valley member. In what likely will be his last event in western Pennsylvania, Palmer failed to make the cut but ignited the partisan crowd Friday with a birdie on his 35th hole.

“I’m such an optimist that there were a couple shots that I thought gave me something to work on tomorrow,” said Palmer, who missed the cut after rounds of 82-86.

After his commanding performance, it doesn’t appear as if Reid has much to work on. He was the only player to post four sub-par rounds, and his 56 greens in regulation ranked second for the week.

But all that is secondary to Reid, who after 28 years as a professional finally has a major to hang on his mantle next to all those family pictures.

“I can live without winning golf championships,” Reid said. “But it would be hard to look myself in the mirror if I was a crummy dad.”

Now he’s a great father and a major champion.

It truly is a wonderful life.

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