Two of the best junior golfers to ever come out of Eugene, Ore. have reunited in their hometown.
As he prepared for his 16th season as the University of Oregon men’s golf coach, Casey Martin hired Jeff Quinney as his assistant.
Martin and Quinney grew up together at Eugene Country Club and both starred at South Eugene High School before finding success on the PGA Tour. Martin earned his tour card in 2000, and has been the head coach at Oregon since 2006.
“My parents and Casey’s parents were members at ECC before I was born,” Quinney said. “I have known Casey since we were little kids and always looked up to him. He was a great junior player and college player and professional. I saw how he practiced at the club and copied his regimen. He was one of the top golfers to ever come out of Eugene, so it will be fun to have two South Eugene grads and past tour players as coaches.”
The 42-year old Quinney was working in real estate in Arizona when Martin called with a spot on his staff.
“I took a month to think it over,” Quinney said. “Did I want to move from Arizona, where I have lived since 1997, to come back to Eugene for a complete 180-degree career shift to coach college golf? I decided to take the plunge, and it has been great so far.”
Quinney sold his properties in Arizona and moved to Eugene during the summer so he could be on campus when the Ducks arrived to prepare for the season-opening tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz. on Sept. 10.
“It’s new to me, but the first week being around the guys was fun,” Quinney said. “It gets your competitive juices going. You get out of bed and being a competitor, selling real estate is not the same as winning a golf tournament. I missed the competition.”
Quinney was the Oregon high school state champion as a senior at South Eugene in 1997 before going on to play at Arizona State. Playing alongside future PGA Tour stars Paul Casey and Chez Reavie, Quinney earned all-conference honors each year from 1999-2001 while helping the Sun Devils win three straight Pac-12 titles.
“That was an amazing experience,” Quinney said. “We had a strong team and won a bunch of tournaments as individuals and as a team. It couldn’t have been any better. We traveled the world, went to Tokyo and Australia. It was a great time.”
Quinney hopes to help Oregon players have a similar experience.
“It has been almost 25 years since my freshman season and the game has changed,” Quinney said. “The technology has changed. When I got to college in 1997, they threw a club at you and there you go, but now everything is customized to your swing speed. These players are basically pros.”
Quinney won the Oregon Amateur in 1998 and 2000, and also won the PNGA Men’s Amateur in 1998 and 2000. He was twice named the PNGA Men’s Player of the Year (1998 and 2000).
Quinney’s greatest golf moment came in 2000 when he won the U.S. Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., defeating James Driscoll in a 39-hole championship match that lasted two days.
“Being a U.S. Amateur champion, that’s a special group to belong to,” Quinney said. “Every time you hear announcers on TV, they refer to someone like Matt Kuchar as a U.S. Amateur champion. They can never take that away.”
Quinney turned pro and won twice on the Canadian Tour before claiming the 2004 Oregon Classic on the Nationwide Tour, held at Shadow Hills Country Club in Junction City, Ore., just outside of his hometown.
He reached the PGA Tour in 2007 and posted five Top-10 finishes as a rookie. Quinney remained on Tour through 2011 before returning to the Nationwide Tour, accumulating nearly $6 million in career earnings before he stopped playing professionally in 2015.
“I missed the second stage at Q School and lost my status on tour,” Quinney recalled. “I lost the love of Monday qualifying. I felt like I was 22 again, but I was in my late 30s and I did not want to do that anymore.”
Quinney applied to regain his amateur status when he stopped playing competitively and is scheduled to be eligible for amateur events again in November 2021. He went into real estate after his father, Bob, passed away in 2016.
“We had campus housing property at the University of Oregon,” Quinney said. “My dad was an attorney and real estate guy so I wanted to get my license to know what we had in assets as a family.”
Quinney’s mom and three brothers still live in or around Eugene along with friends from high school. Although he graduated from ASU, Quinney grew up rooting for the Ducks.
“I was always a huge Duck fan,” he said. “We had season tickets for football and basketball. I still watched the Ducks even when I was in the desert. It’s nice to be home. Oregon is a great brand to be part of and Casey built a great golf program here.”
Quinney will learn on the job as he begins a coaching career. And now even more so.
On Friday, October 15, Martin had his right leg amputated.
For his entire life, Martin suffered from Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome, which restricted circulation in the lower portion of his right leg and made it virtually impossible for him to walk 18 holes. Despite this, he competed on the Stanford men’s golf team, and was a teammate of Tiger Woods, which won the NCAA national team title in 1994.
His groundbreaking lawsuit citing the Americans with Disabilities Act made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which voted 7-2 in his favor in a 2001 decision, allowing him to ride a cart while competing on the PGA Tour.
Martin, 49, broke his right leg two years ago, which eventually led to the decision to amputate when being in a cast and a series of injections failed to heal the tibia.
After the surgery on the 15th, Martin was recovering at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Quinney will now take over the reins of Oregon’s men’s golf team until Martin recovers.
“At the first part of the year, I thought I would sit back and observe and answer questions,” he said. But with Martin now on the sidelines, Quinney has been bumped to the top spot. “Throw me into the fire and see what happens.”
Steve Mims spent 21 years as a sportswriter at The Eugene Register-Guard. He was a finalist for Oregon Sportswriter of the Year in 2017.