Sometimes nothing reinforces the blessings of the present like revisiting the past. Scott Parel can attest.
While the U.S. Open was going on at Erin Hills last week, Champions Tour regular Parel dipped his toe back in the Web.com Tour waters with a return to Wichita where he won his lone tour event in 2013. The 52-year-old Augusta golfer wanted most to see his aging host family again, but the passage of time was illuminating in multiple ways.
“Had a little taste of reality last week back playing on the Web.com Tour and made me realize how well I have it out here on the Champions Tour,” said Parel, who finished a respectable 32nd against the kids. “My caddie’s been telling me that I could really play out there and get my PGA Tour card. I was like, ‘Why in the world would I want to do that?’ That was a great dream when I had it and I certainly wouldn’t turn down a PGA Tour card. But I couldn’t compete out there with those guys any way like I can compete out here. When you’re 52, this is where you’re supposed to be unless you’re Vijay Singh or Davis Love.”
When the U.S. Senior Open tees off this week at historic Salem Country Club near Boston, Parel has higher expectations against his peers. It will be his third USGA championship, having missed the cut in the 2002 and 2005 U.S. Opens at Bethpage and Pinehurst.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Parel said from Madison, Wis., where he’s competing in this weekend’s American Family Insurance Championship hosted by Steve Stricker. “Hoping to fare a little better in the Senior Open than I did in the two previous regular Opens I played in. It’s the same guys I’ve been playing against pretty much all year long so if I play well I should do OK.”
Parel already has one runner-up in the season’s first senior major last month. Yet despite his Tradition performance vaulting him inside the top 20 on the money list a week after the deadline for a U.S. Senior Open exemption, he had to go to Kingwood, Texas, on June 5 to qualify. He shot 69 to tie for medalist and secure a spot.
Parel never fell out of the top six in four rounds at the Tradition, shooting 15-under at Greystone to finish runner-up to Hall of Famer Bernhard Langer, who shot 8-under in the final round to win by five shots. The $184,000 second-place check was the biggest payday of Parel’s pro career, exceeding $117,000 for his 2013 Web.com Tour win.
“I played great; unfortunately Bernhard Langer was in his zone that he seems to get in,” Parel said. “Playing with him in the last round was a lot of fun. I don’t know that I learned a lot, but I learned a lot about him. He’s obviously very good and very clutch. He either hit it close or made every putt he needed to make on Sunday.
“I felt very comfortable. That was the one thing I took out of it. I didn’t feel like nerves had anything to do with any of my play. Shot 2-under Saturday and Sunday, which wasn’t great but solid golf. I didn’t hole as many putts as I needed to but I didn’t make any major mistakes.”
Parel has settled into his new tour. In 25 career Champions Tour starts, Parel has made $717,911 including $373,119 in nine starts this season that ranks 18th on the money list. His senior earnings over the last 20 months exceeds the total $705,350 he made in 222 career Web.com Tour events spanning 20 years.
He’s in a good position to reach his goal of being one of the top 36 money leaders who reach the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in November and retain fully exempt status for 2018 including invites to all the majors.
“That’s all I’m trying to do – get as many years out here on this tour as I can because it’s a great spot,” Parel said. “Nine events in I’m where I need to be and we’ve got more than half the season left. Nothing is guaranteed at this point but if I can continue to play like I’ve been playing I’ll end up reaching my goal.”
The Champions Tour has an unusually condensed major season, with all five majors packed among seven events into a 10-week span. It opened with two majors in consecutive weeks – the Tradition and Senior PGA and ends with three more in a row separated by off weeks – U.S. Senior Open, Senior Players and Senior British.
Parel is qualified for all of them, but he’s skipping the British.
“It’s kind of a strange schedule out here in that we play so many majors it seems like in a row,” he said. “We’ve got such a long stretch coming in August with six weeks in a row and I’m not going to take any off, figured it would be good to take a little extra time off in July.”
Parel is looking forward to his first U.S. Senior Open on a classic Donald Ross course. He’ll play his usual practice rounds with tour friends Lee Janzen and Rocco Mediate. Janzen, a two-time U.S. Open winner at Hazeltine and Olympic, and Mediate have plenty of institutional knowledge to share with a relative rookie.
“I expect it to be probably the toughest test that we’ll face all year as far as rough and firmness of greens,” Parel said. “If anything it should play into the way that I’m playing. I think the better ball strikers will do better on harder venues and usually four days very rarely does the best player not win. That’s why Bernhard has such great success in the majors because usually the cream rises to the top the more golf you play.”
At this stage of his career, Parel is thankful for his place in the mix.
“I feel very comfortable on this tour now and that’s a big deal,” he said. “I know that I’m going to be competitive.”