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PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — For the past 18 years, Fran Quinn never had the time to play the U.S. Open.

He had more important things to do — like scratching out a living on the Web.com Tour.

Now that he's finally here, he's making the most of it.

In the field for the first time since 1996, Quinn shot a 2-under 68 on Thursday to join three other players in a tie for second — three shots behind Martin Kaymer.

In the process, the 49-year-old Massachusetts player authored the first chapter of what could become one of the feel-good stories of this U.S. Open.

Quinn has 15-year-old son Owen carrying his clubs and his late father's memory on his mind.

"It's a dream," he said, "and I hope I don't wake up until Sunday."

For someone whose career has mostly been spent in golf's equivalent of the minor leagues, this was the round of a lifetime.

Quinn's best finish at a U.S. Open came in 1994, when he wound up 43rd at Oakmont. He missed the cut two years later at Oakland Hills and hadn't been back to one since.

"I had other opportunities to go to the qualifying, but unfortunately — I had been out on the Web.com Tour a lot and I was right on the cusp of getting my card out there," Quinn said. "You couldn't really afford not to play. So unfortunately, you had to skip the Open at times."

He has four wins on the Web.com Tour but none since the 2010 Panama Claro Championship. He missed the cut in his only PGA Tour event last year, the Travelers Championship, and also was cut in eight of the 13 tournaments on the Web.com Tour that year and finished 177th on the money list.

Quinn missed the cut at his only Web.com tournament this year, the Panama Claro, and had to play his way to Pinehurst No. 2. He was the co-medalist at a sectional qualifier this month in Purchase, New York.

"To come back and play this year, I'm 49 years old, it's Father's Day weekend, I've got my boy on the bag, my dad (Fran Quinn Sr.) passed away two years ago, and I know he's looking down today," Quinn said. "And it's just a tremendous feeling."

Especially with the way he played — following up a strong start with a strong finish while recording what he called "a heck of a score at the U.S. Open."

He birdied two of his first five holes, hung around the top of the leaderboard all day and closed his round with a birdie on the par-3 ninth after landing his tee shot about 2 feet from the flagstick.

"I was like, 'Wow, this is really — you shot 68,'" Owen Quinn said. "Reality set in."

Now his mission is to avoid becoming a one-round wonder.

As tough as it is to put together a solid 18 holes at a U.S. Open, it's even tougher to do it a second time.

"It is only one round, but it's nice to put up the great score the first day," Quinn said. "But you know you have to keep it going. But having said that, it was a dream start. It was everything that I could want and more."

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Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap

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