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Dana Quigley has edge into season finale

Dana Quigley somehow managed to focus on the Champions Tour's season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship tournament last year despite one of the biggest distractions imaginable: his beloved Boston Red Sox were in the World Series.

This week, the Red Sox are done -- but Quigley is far from finished with what's already been a memorable season among golf's best seniors.

Quigley is atop the tour's money list with slightly more than $2 million, and he's also in prime position to claim the $1 million annuity awarded to the winner of the season-long points race known as the Charles Schwab Cup.

But with those points tripled in the seniors' season-ending event at Sonoma Golf Club, Quigley feels almost as much pressure as his Sox in Game 4 of last season's AL championship series.

``To be honest with you, I kind of dreaded this tournament all season when I was leading (the Schwab Cup standings),'' Quigley said Wednesday. ``We all knew it was going to come to this. ... I've had a good lead, I've had a nice year all year long, and I'm very proud of that. But it's not going to go for anything if I don't play well here, so I know the pressure is on.

``I feel it, and I think all of the players will have a little extra bit of focus going into this week knowing that you can basically win $1 million if you play well.''

But if Quigley wins the $1 million annuity, he plans to follow Allen Doyle's example in 2002 by giving it away to charities, as well as his church and his university. To do it, he must play some of his best golf at the renovated course in Northern California's wine country.

The $2.5 million tournament features a $440,000 winner's purse, but the annuity also remains winnable for several players. Though Mark McNulty won the tournament last year with a Sunday surge past error-prone Tom Kite, Hale Irwin captured the Schwab Cup by 39 points over Craig Stadler.

Irwin and Quigley are among the older players on the 50-and-over circuit, but both are playing some of their best golf in years -- and Irwin has won two of his last four tournaments, in Cary, N.C., and Pebble Beach. Few seniors can match the 60-year-old's game at its best.

``Having won (the Schwab Cup) twice, having known the financial reward, I'm not going to belittle that,'' Irwin said. ``That's very attractive, it really is. I think in the end, when I go to my home and I go back into my trophy room and I see those two gold cups there, that tells me something, and those gold cups ... hold a lot of pride and prestige.''

Only 30 golfers are eligible for the 72-hole tournament, which begins Thursday. Among the other favorites in the field are rookie Jay Haas, who has won two of his last three tournaments while collecting more than $600,000 in his last four appearances; Stadler, who has finished in the top 10 in 13 tournaments this season, but still hasn't won; and Tom Watson, a two-time winner of this tournament.

The field also features Gil Morgan, who has one more shot to extend his streak of nine straight seasons with at least one victory; Loren Roberts, another tour rookie who just turned 50 four months ago; and Mark Johnson, the erstwhile beer-truck driver who earned a tour spot in last year's national qualifying tournament.

October 26, 2005

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