Sometimes it's the experience which makes you feel like a winner.

Shawnee resident and retired Air Force Master Sergeant Dean McQuitty certainly had the experience of a lifetime and nearly pulled off a championship win to boot, participating in the Senior Hogan Flight of the Senior Amateur National Championships at the PGA National Resort in West Palm Beach, Fla., in September.

McQuitty, 62, was atop the leaderboard heading into the fourth and final day, but settled for runner-up in the event which featured 123 golfers from around the country.

“It was quite an experience. I told my wife (Connie) that I was a winner by getting to go,” McQuitty said.

The event was played under PGA rules as it featured galleries and announcements of the golfers at the first tee. Four of the five resort courses used for the event included the Champions Course, Fazio Course, Squire Course and Palmer Course.

The Seniors AM Tour enables amateur golfers a chance to compete with golfers their own age and handicap. Qualifications come from within the state and area where you must finish in the top 25 percent of your flight in order to compete at nationals.

McQuitty, who battles rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, shot an 80 on the first day, had back-to-back 81s on the second and third days and finished up with an 84 to finish four strokes behind winner Ken Naylor, of Pensacola, Fla.

“My driver kept me (in the tournament). There was water everywhere and I was able to keep it in the fairway,” said McQuitty. “I was sixth on the first day and got up to first on the third day, but couldn't quite get it done.”

The moment he was most proud of is when he recorded a 1-under-par through “The Bear Trap,” described as one of the most demanding three-hole stretches (holes 15-17) on the PGA Tour.

McQuitty has played 15 different tournaments the last year and won one at Bailey's Ranch in Tulsa and the Shawnee Country Club.

“I've always been an avid golfer. I have always loved the game,” he said.

McQuitty got his start in the sport while growing up and living in Booker, Texas. He fell in love with golf while working at the golf course there during high school, according to his wife Connie.

He was on the first state championship winning team at Booker High School during his junior year of 1974.

“I played on-and-off, whenever the military would let me go play,” said McQuitty, who served 23-plus years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force and 17 years as an Air Force reservist.

His military service included three commendation medals and two meritorious service medals.

While serving his country he was stationed in Germany, Italy, Korea, Utah, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio and Oklahoma.

During his Oklahoma service in the Air Force Reserves, after 9-11, McQuitty was deployed to Turkey and Guam in support of Desert Storm. In all of his years of service, he was an aircraft mechanic, working on F-4s, F-16s, T-38s and KC-135s..

He has played the sport he loves in Guam, Italy (where he once qualified in an Air Force Tournament to go play on a free trip to Athens) and Hawaii.

McQuitty says he once won a tournament in Korea where he edged out the base commander by one stroke.

He proudly displays his military medals, golf trophies and his American flag in the family den.

Dean and Connie have been married for 13 years and between them have five children and seven grandchildren. They met when Dean came to Shawnee in 2002 and Connie rented an apartment to him while she managed Ken Del Apartments.

“We would run into each other at three or four different places and it kept going from there,” he said.

Dean served as an Air Force reserve technician at Tinker Air Force Base and worked there until recently retiring. While in Booker, he ran a hotel and restaurant.

“He makes great coconut pies from scratch and loves fishing more than making pies,” Connie said. “We have a freezer full of catfish.”