Over the course of 12 years in Augusta, you lose track of how many stories you’ve written about golf and golfers – somewhere between a thousand and a million.
None of them has captured the compelling essence of sporting dreams quite as well as the ongoing saga of Augusta’s Scott Parel. If all goes well over the next two months, the 48-year-old Parel could become the oldest player in the history of golf to secure his rookie status on the PGA Tour.
Has anybody ever called his quest crazy?
“I promise there were people who have, but none of them would ever say it to me,” Parel said this week in the wake of his biggest career accomplishment in winning the Web.com Tour’s Air Capital Classic in Wichita, Kan. “I think my mom and dad thought that at some point. In my mid- to late-40s they thought, ‘What in the world are you doing here? You’re 47 and still don’t have a job that you know you’ll have every year.’ That’s just that generation. In no way would they ever discourage me from chasing my dreams.”
That dream has been so tantalizingly close in the past two years. He missed earning his PGA Tour card by one shot at Q-School in 2011. Last year in Raleigh, N.C., he lost in a playoff and the difference between the first- and second-place check would have been enough to earn his card through the top 25 on the money list.
Needless to say, Parel isn’t taking anything for granted just because he finally got that first victory in his 171st start on golf’s top developmental tour. He’s 14th on the Web.com money list and he knows he needs more cash in the remaining nine events to stay in the top 25 at regular season’s end on Aug. 25.
“I haven’t even won as much money as I had all year last year, and that wasn’t good enough,” said Parel, who shot 67 on Thursday in the first round of the Rex Hospital Open to start out among the top 10 on a course he loves. “I know that this is for sure no guarantee. I’ve still only made four out of 11 cuts (this season), so do that again and you’re probably not going to get your card. By no means do I think I have this thing wrapped up. There have been plenty of guys who’ve won and not gotten their cards on this tour. It happens every year and will happen again this year. I’d really like to not be one of them.”
That the top-25 card chase is an option again is remarkable enough considering Parel is less than three months removed from an MRI that revealed a bulging L5-S1 disc pressing against his sciatic nerve.
His back was causing him enough problems that he contacted the tour in May to inquire about what he needed to do to apply for a medical exemption next season.
“I was pretty worried,” he admitted. “It’s hard not to be worried when you see that MRI and know people who have had so many problems. It was a little disheartening.”
Parel spoke with his wife, Mary, and they agreed to monitor how his next three events went before making any decisions about what to do next.
“If it’s not any better, maybe I better shut it down and try again next year,” he said.
Kansas was the last of those events, and he was only there because he failed in sectional qualifying to reach the U.S. Open at Merion.
“You’re glad you didn’t play well that Monday (qualifier), aren’t you?” Parel said his wife told him when they spoke after Sunday’s victory. “I sure am. It didn’t seem like that at the time.”
Winning allows Parel the chance to pace himself these next two months and not feel like he’s falling behind by taking a week off to rest.
He’s been trying since 2003 to catch that lightning in a bottle one week on the secondary tour. He’d won more than 10 times on mini-tours but nothing that earned a $117,000 check and put him one step closer to his PGA Tour goal. His 7-under 64 expanded a one-shot lead into a three-shot triumph.
But finally winning last week was not the end of his story. He understands that.
“I feel like it’s a validation, but then again I have still not achieved my goal which is to get on the PGA Tour,” he said. “So hopefully I can make that happen and then I can feel like it’s validated all this time and sacrifice that my family’s made. It will be like we all got out there finally.”
Parel will be 48 years, 3 months and nine days old on Aug. 25, the final day of the Web.com Tour regular season when the top 25 money leaders are set. If Parel’s one of them, that’s 10 months older than Allen Doyle (47 years, 5 months, 6 days) was in 1995 when he became the oldest player to earn his rookie card on the PGA Tour.
That’s the end result that will make the 17 years Parel has been chasing this dream worthwhile. But the overwhelming support and well wishes he’s received since Sunday are a nice reminder of what his quest means to people.
“A lot of the comments I’ve got from people are ‘I’m just so proud that you’ve never given up on your dream and had so much perseverance and fortitude,’” he said. “I just love doing this. If I didn’t love playing golf I would have given it up a long time ago. There’s just too many things that it takes away from you, like seeing your son perform in a musical. You miss so many things. (My family has) just been unbelievable about it. If you quit now, all those times that you missed you feel like why in the world did you ever do it to begin with? You could have seen all these things and been there for all the musicals and football games and cheerleading and all that. You’ve missed so much, you can’t quit now.”
Certainly not when the finish line to one of Augusta’s best golf stories is so very close.