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Dan Quayle still comes out swinging

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

PHOENIX, Ariz. - One of Phoenix's most famous golfers isn't a PGA Tour professional, he's Dan Quayle, the former vice president of the United States, who's a frequent player in celebrity golf tournaments in the Phoenix area.

We talked to Republican Quayle recently about his expertise in golf and found out that he plays as often as he can, usually on weekends when he's in the Phoenix area where he makes his home. His handicap now fluctuates somewhere between 3 and 6, he says. "I started when I was 8 years old. We were living in Phoenix next door to Paradise Valley Country Club and I just got interested in golfing," he says. "Dad didn't golf; Mother did a little and they stuck me in a golf clinic and I got pretty good at it."

At DePauw University in Indiana he served as captain of the golf team and was later named to the school's athletic hall of fame. As a young man, he thought about trying a professional career in golf, but only "fleetingly," he says.

Although he is often associated with the state of Indiana, where Quayle, was born in 1947 and later graduated from college. The vice president has strong roots in Arizona where his family owned the Phoenix daily newspaper, the Arizona Republic, until recently. (His family also owned the Indianapolis daily paper.)

He "grew up" in Arizona, he says, and then returned to Indiana as a young man to start his political career. In 1976 he was elected to the House of Representatives; in 1980 he became a senator. Then in 1988, Quayle rose to national prominence when the first George Bush chose him as his running mate for the GOP presidential ticket.

Golf has always been a great emotional release for him from the nasty pressures of the politics of destruction. "There's always a great psychological release out on the course when you're thinking only about golf," he says. "With current events the way they are, it's hard to do that sometimes. A lot of my friends play golf, and I've found it's a great way to spend a few hours."

In fact during his tenure as vice president, there were many nasty jokes told about what some called his "fixation" on golf. However, a fairly flattering book about Quayle, written by Washington writers Bob Woodward and David Broder, indicated that Quayle used golf to help control his competitive drive and overcome his inner demons. One of Quayle's aides told the authors: " 'After an evening appearance that did not go as well as he wanted . I have seen him in the dark of night, jump out of his car and walk right to the putting green and start putting. The imposition of discipline. Or absolute order. What matters. And that's not just relaxation. That's his version of oriental shadow boxing.'"

So where does Quayle find that golfing release now? Mainly at Paradise Valley and Whisper Rock, both private clubs in the Phoenix area where he has memberships. Whisper Rock, incidentally, is the pricey new course in north Scottsdale that was the first one designed by Phil Mickelson.

Paradise Valley is known for attracting members from the top echelon in business, sports and politics in Arizona. Among other members there: Jerry Colangelo, Sandra Day O'Connor, Paul Harvey, Hale Irwin and Robin Yount.

But Quayle is also a member at Crooked Stick in Indianapolis and Ballybunion in Ireland. He usually gets to Ireland once a year to play there as well. Among other courses in Arizona, "I like the Boulders (the posh resort in Cave Creek) and Superstition Mountain (private club in Mesa)," he says. "And I like Los Caballeros in Wickenburg where my mother lives."

Los Caballeros is a dude ranch golf course designed in the early 1970s by architects Greg Nash and Jeff Hardin.

While serving in Congress and as vice president, Quayle only got to play golf occasionally, he says. But when he did, he played at Congressional. He named as his best opponents: GOP Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma, Democrat Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia and GOP Rep. Dan Burton of the House - but not his former boss, President George H.W. Bush. "He (Bush) rates a game of golf based on the amount of time it takes to play, not on his score," Quayle says, remembering that most of their rounds took about 2½ hours. "He didn't take any practice swings. He just hits the ball and goes after it."

Quayle remains a frequent player in charity and celebrity tournaments, like those held before the Phoenix Open. Teeing off with PGA stars has never been a problem for him; he always manages to maintain his concentration. "I always remember that I'm the amateur and they're the professionals," he says. "Sure there's an adrenaline flow on the first tee, but I've played a lot of competitive golf."

His best competitive round ever was a 68, racked up at a tournament at Morgan's Run in San Diego three or four years ago. And his favorite clubs are Pings - "I'm a Ping man through and through."

Just like the rest of us, he takes a lesson from time to time. "Most recently, I had one with Dan Campbell at Whisper Rock," he says. "I'm working on trying to stay over the ball during my swing and getting wide coming down. It's hard to stay over the ball; you're either ahead of it or behind it."

Until recently, Quayle was the only one in his family playing golf. "My wife, Marilyn, has been taking it up the past couple years and really enjoys it. In fact we played at a couples' tour a couple weeks ago at Paradise Valley and came in second."

Off the course, Quayle, now 56, seems to have left politics behind for business. He's currently chairman of global operations for Cerberus Capital and travels frequently to Asia, Europe, New York and D.C. Will he ever run again? "I'll never say never. But I'm not focused on it right now," he says. "I was going to run in 1998 until George W. Bush got into the picture and swept everybody else out of the way."

Rebecca LarsenRebecca Larsen, Contributor

Rebecca Larsen is a former features and assistant features editor for the Marin Independent Journal, a medium-sized daily paper located north of San Francisco. She has also worked for the Milwaukee Journal and for a Chicago public relations firm. She has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's from the University of California at Berkeley.

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