Harry Dessel can finally call himself a Rhode Island Golf Association state champion.
Dessel, 20, of Rhode Island Country Club, outlasted Tyler Cooke to win the 2023 Rhode Island Stroke Play Championship Wednesday at Valley Country Club. After Dessel signed his card, RIGA executive director, Bob Ward, presented the winner with a trophy and a Titleist golf bag with “RIGA Champion” embroidered on it.
“I’ve waited a long time for this bag,” Dessel said with a huge smile. “To finally break through and win a RIGA event, I’ve waited a long time.”
Dessel was the runner-up three times in the Rhode Island Junior Amateur Championship, runner-up in the (2021) Stroke Play Championship, and runner-up in the (2023) Rhode Island Amateur. He knew he was close and he finally pulled it off in grand fashion Wednesday at Valley Country Club.
“If I won, I’d be a three-time Junior Amateur champion, a Stroke Play champion and Amateur champion. I knew I was very close,” he said. “I never had a good final day and then today I finally had one . . . It was really big for my confidence. I did make the finals of the Amateur, but I got crushed in the finals. So, to actually get over the hurdle and win this tournament was big for me.”
Dessel made the shot of the day on the par-3 12th hole. His tee shot flew the green and landed on the No. 16 green. He made an incredible green-to-green shot and landed it a few feet from the hole and saved par.
“I don’t know how it got back there,” he said. “I was about 50 yards over the green to the left, and it was probably the best shot of the day.”
Dessel and Cooke were back and forth atop the leaderboard, and while Cooke carded a bogey on No. 17, and a par on No. 18, all Dessel had to do was birdie the final hole. He succeeded and accomplished his goal.
“I know I had to make birdie on 18 and I did,” he said.
As he walked off the green, his father, Bill, was waiting to give his son a big hug.
He’s returning to Lafayette College for his sophomore year in a couple of weeks, and admits the drive to Easton, Pa., will be a lot better with his new RIGA Champions bag in the trunk.
It’s about time the Rhode Island Stroke Play Championship is renamed in Paul Quigley’s honor.
Quigley won the championship nine times (1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1999 and 2000) during a 13-year span. He’s also won the Senior Division of the tournament multiple times and he added to that list with another victory Wednesday at Valley Country Club. He didn’t even know he won the Senior Division until several people congratulated him after he finished 74-73 – 147 (3-over) during the two-day event this week.
“I never look at the leaderboard,” he said. “I just play. It’s just the love of the game and the love to compete. I don’t get up in the morning and come to a tournament and say, ‘I could stay home.’ No, I’m ready to go.”
Quigley’s always been ready to go. His compete level is off the charts and his resume is even more impressive, especially now for a 78-year-old.
In fact, he was instrumental in starting the Stroke Play Championship prior to the 1984 season. At the time, Ed Perry was the secretary of the RIGA, which was then the top official of the organization. When a group of local golfers, including Quigley, approached Perry about creating a Player of the Year award, along with a Stroke Play Championship, they figured it was a longshot.
“We almost fainted when he said ‘ok,’” explained Quigley.
Billy Andrade won the inaugural event in 1984, while Charlie Hayes (1985), Chuck Wojtowicz (1986) and Tom Johnson (1987) won the next three championships. Then it became Quigley’s show. He also reached the finals of the Rhode Island Amateur Championship seven times and recorded three victories. He’s the only golfer in Rhode Island to win the state title three times after reaching age 40.
“I just love to compete,” Quigley said. “I’ve always said, ‘The golf ball doesn’t know how old you are when you hit it.’ I have fun. I enjoy it. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it – for sure.”
Even if any of his five grandkids attempt to beat “pops” they know he’s going to give it his best not to lose.
“It doesn’t matter where it is, or what it’s for,” he said with a laugh.
He definitely doesn’t look his age, but enjoys shooting well below his age. Besides never drinking, or smoking, Quigley believes the 13 years he’s been doing hot yoga has really helped maintain a solid quality of life, including a stellar golf game at his age.
“To this day, I work out every morning,” he said. “I keep at it. We have such a competition in our family with Brett and Dana, so no one will give anyone any accolades, so you’ve got to stay sharp.”
He was up at 5:30 a.m. for his daily workout before Wednesday’s round and it paid dividends. Spending the winters in Florida helps, too, he said. It took Quigley a while to exit the clubhouse Wednesday at Valley CC because so many of his fellow golfers wanted to congratulate him on another impressive victory.View results for Rhode Island Stroke Play