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Former NHLer Quinn finds new focus: golf

by Tal Pinchevsky
It's not often that golfing legend Ernie Els, or Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, gets overshadowed on the gold course.

But, Dan Quinn, the former NHL player, pulled off that impressive feat in July, a feat made more amazing by the fact that Quinn was caddying for Els at the time.

But, it happened.

July 21 turned out to be an interesting day at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver for both Els and Quinn.

Former NHLer Dan Quinn has taken up caddying in his post-hockley life, carrying the clubs for PGA great Ernie Els. (Getty Images/PGA Tour Photo)
Just two months after being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Els was partnered with Schwartzel at the RBC Canadian Open. But following a fine first round in a tournament that eventually saw both men finish in the top 20, both golfers were mostly ignored by reporters.

Instead, the media throng gathered around Quinn as the group moved off the green toward the clubhouse.

"I took my caddy bib off and set down the bag and I had 14 reporters with TV cameras around me," Quinn told "He [Els] just had two cameras, so he was laughing. It's just a testament to how great the sport of hockey is and how much it is loved in Canada."

While he's remembered primarily for the 685 points he accumulated during 14 NHL seasons, Quinn has spent most of his post-NHL life becoming one of the Celebrity Tour's top golfers.

A small series of pro events, the tour stars actors and musicians, but primarily attracts athletes ranging from Tony Romo to Ray Allen to John Smoltz. A veteran of 21 years on the Celebrity Tour, Quinn's golf career really took off when he met Els, a neighbor in Jupiter, Fla.

After striking up a friendship, Els approached Quinn about caddying in 2010 -- never thinking he'd someday be outshined by his new caddy.

While growing up in Ontraio, Quinn found a way to balance hockey and golf, but by the time he was drafted into the Ontario Hockey League, golf was forced to the back burner.

"From the age of 12 to 16, I played a ton of Ontario amateur and junior tournaments. Even though I was drafted at 16 to play in Belleville, I had a couple of scholarship offers to play golf also," Quinn said. "I didn't play a lot of golf from the age of 16 to almost 20. You basically hung up your clubs when you went to training camp, if not a couple of weeks before, because you were working out."

A trade from Calgary to Pittsburgh in his third NHL season resuscitated Quinn's love for golf.

Pittsburgh has long been known for its many golf courses, but there was also a new teammate whose passion for the links matched Quinn's. Playing with Penguins great Mario Lemieux not only enhanced Quinn's stat line -- including a career-high 94 points in 1988-89 -- but Lemieux's well-known love for golf also provided Quinn with a partner when their NHL schedule allowed the occasional game.

"I took my caddy bib off and set down the bag and I had 14 reporters with TV cameras around me. [Els] just had two cameras, so he was laughing. It's just a testament to how great the sport of hockey is and how much it is loved in Canada" -- Dan Quinn
"Mario Lemieux loved to golf, and I love golf. We played every day we could in the summertime. The trade to Pittsburgh and the great golf community they have allowed me to continue to play," Quinn said. "Pittsburgh is a big sports town, but it's also a huge golf town. I got traded to Pittsburgh when I was 21, and that's where it sort of started again."

When Quinn retired following a return to Pittsburgh during the 1996-97 season, he was already a veteran of the Celebrity Tour. But it was after retiring from the NHL that Quinn truly established himself, winning the American Century Championships, the celebrity tour's premier event, four times in six years. Today, Quinn ranks second among the tournament's all-time money leaders, trailing only former major league pitcher Rick Rhoden.

In retirement, Quinn also began working as a realtor in southern Florida, but the market's recent struggles pushed him to pursue golf more aggressively.

"That's why I'm caddying," he said.

With an eye on the PGA Senior Tour and his gig caddying for Els, Quinn plans to maintain his career in golf. But unless it's at a Canadian tournament, he's not likely to overshadow Els, who was happy to let Quinn have his moment before their final hole in Vancouver last month.

"Ernie is such a class guy. [At the Canadian Open] on Sunday, he let me walk out onto the [18th] green by myself," Quinn said. "The galleries were great. They gave me a louder standing ovation than what Ernie was getting. It was classy and kind of funny."

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