And sometimes, when that happens, you hit it off with those folks and have new friends yourself.
Former Flyer Dan Quinn took that to a whole other level.
His daughters Jordan and Kamryn, became friendly with Samantha Els in their hometown of Jupiter, Fla.
If Samantha’s last name is uniquely recognizable, that’s because she is who you think she is.
Samantha is the daughter of golfer Ernie Els. The South African golfer maintains homes in his native country as well as in England and in Florida, where his family lives most of the year.
Quinn, 48, who played parts of two seasons with the Flyers in the 1990s, had actually met Els in 2008 at The Ritz-Carlton Club in Florida where Els was staying during his time playing in the Honda Classic.
|Dan Quinn spent 15 years in the NHL - two with the Flyers. Now he's serving as a caddy for one of the world's top golfers - Ernie Els. |
But once Els decided to move his family there later that year, Samantha became fast friends with Jordan and Kamryn.
As such, Els and Quinn became fast friends. The conversation, of course, was frequently about golf. After Quinn’s hockey career ended following the 1996-97 season, he pursued a second athletic career in golf.
And while most people, when thinking of two sport athletes immediately think of Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders, Quinn often is forgotten about.
He shouldn’t be though. While he didn’t ever reach the same success level at his second sport of golf that he did during a 15-year hockey career, Quinn has made a mark as a golfer.
He turned pro immediately, and did try Q school to see if he could qualify for the PGA Tour. He never made it, but he has been wildly successful at the American Century Celebrity Golf Classic where he’s won the tournament five times, including last year.
Yet, as avid a golfer as he is, and although he’s done well in real estate in his post NHL career, Quinn has found a new calling – as a caddie.
Quinn is Els’ erstwhile caddie on tour, and is helping The Big Easy here at the U.S. Open at Merion in Ardmore.
“Ernie is so similar to a lot of hockey guys,” Quinn said on the eve of the tournament. “We started playing golf together, had a few beers and just hung out. He’s a real guy’s guy. He’s so easy to get along with. If I could have brought him into a hockey locker room when I played he would have fit right in.”
And it’s that easy-going nature that found Quinn caddying for Els for the first time in 2009.
“I never lobbied for the job,” Quinn said. “One day he just told me to pack my stuff and come with him to Singapore for a World Golf Championship event. So I did, and he asked me, not his normal caddie Ricky Roberts, to caddie for him. We finished in second there and it became a job.”
Since then Quinn has spent at least half a year on the bag for Els, and when Ernie was coming to Merion, it was a no-brainer to bring Quinn.
“It had been awhile, but I had played here at Merion a few times,” Quinn said. “I played it in 1999 and I knew the layout pretty well.”
Now Quinn hopes that he can help Els land another major championship.
“People think it’s fun to be a caddie, but to me it’s hard work,” Quinn said. “I’m not just carrying bags for Ernie. There’s a lot of pressure. I mean, don[‘t get me wrong, it’s a cool job, but it’s a lot like being an assistant coach and a scout rolled into one.
“Your job is to try to make someone else better at what they do. Once he tees it up, I’m the only guy he can really talk to. I have to monitor his frame of mind. I have to make sure he’s not too down or getting too far ahead of himself. “
But it’s not just an emotional support role either.
“There’s definitely a lot of groundwork that I have to do before he even gets to the course,” Quinn said. “I have to check pin locations and tee markers. I have to pay attention to the weather and wind direction and wind strength. I have to walk the course and check all the greens to see if they are firm or not.
“Yes, I’m there to be a friend and give him a pat on the back or a kick in the butt if he needs it, but it’s a lot of pre-scouting and monitoring the other golfers on the course as well.”
Quinn said he plans on ramping up his golfing efforts in a couple years when he reaches 50 and can play in more senior tournaments. Until then, he’s going to stick to caddying for Els.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t stay in tune with hockey.
Quinn was en route to a King of Prussia restaurant when we spoke Wednesday to grab dinner and watch Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
“It was tough to watch when I first retired, but the last few years – what NBC has done has been great for the game,” Quinn said. “I have the NHL package and I love watching the Flyers, Pittsburgh, Washington and Chicago.”
Quinn said his one regret is not staying in touch with his many hockey friends and teammates over the years as much as he’d like, but admits that it’s something he’s looking to rectify sooner rather than later.
“I got together with Terry Carkner (Tuesday) and I still talk to Kerry Huffman. But, being in Florida I only see guys when they roll into town. So I’ve seen Jeremy Roenick, Brett Hull, Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman, but I’d like to do more. I’d like to do some more alumni events and catch up with guys.”
Like the Flyers Alumni Golf Outing on July 8?
“You can give them my number and tell them to give me a call,” Quinn said.
Sure thing – but go win a U.S. Open with Ernie Els first.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37