Matt Parziale with finance Ali Hubbard and father Vic at the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. (USGA/Chris Keane)

Firefighter headed to Augusta, Pebble and Shinnecock

By Doug FergusonOctober 18, 2017, 6:31 pm

The U.S. Mid-Amateur typically signals the end of the golf season for Matt Parziale.

Not long after the tournament is over – usually early for Parziale, considering he had never won a match in three previous tries – he puts the clubs away and falls into a routine schedule as a firefighter on Ladder 1 for the Brockton Fire Department in Massachusetts.

His weekends are more likely to be spent on the ski slopes of New Hampshire than the fairways of Thorny Lea Golf Club.

''If this didn't happen, I wouldn't play again,'' Parziale said. ''I'd play on the nice days until the snow melts in March or April. Now, I've got some things to figure out next year. It will be a different winter, but I'm excited.''

What happened?

Three days later, he was still trying to get his head around a most wonderful week on the Crabapple course at Capital City Club north of Atlanta.

Parziale made it out of the first round. And the second round. In the quarterfinals, he was 5 down with eight holes to play and won that match, too. The championship match was a blowout. The firefighter was as hot as he had been all week, making eight birdies for a 6-up lead after the morning 18 holes and closing out Josh Nichols, 8 and 6, to win the U.S. Mid-Amateur.

Now about that winter.

For the first time, the U.S. Mid-Amateur champion is exempt into the U.S. Open. That's in June at Shinnecock Hills. He also gets into the U.S. Amateur. That's in August at Pebble Beach. The more pressing perk is going to the Masters. That's in April, by which time the snow hopefully has melted outside Boston.

''You don't take five months off and show up at Augusta,'' Parziale said.

Tiger Woods did that in 2010 and tied for fourth.

''Yeah, but that's Tiger,'' Parziale said with a laugh.

That's his idol.

Parziale was 9 when he watched the Masters for the first time and saw Woods break 20 records on his way to a 12-shot victory. He was 16 when Woods won a World Golf Championship at Capital City Club, the very place where Parziale realized so many of his golf dreams.

So when asked if he could play a practice round at the Masters with one person, Parziale didn't hesitate.

''Tiger, and there's not even a close second,'' he said. ''I play golf because of Tiger Woods. I was the perfect age to see him.''

Woods posted a video Sunday of him swinging a driver, and his agent said doctors have cleared the 14-time major champion to resume golf activities without limitations, though returning to competition hasn't even been discussed. Still, there's hope.

For the 30-year-old firefighter, there is always hope.

Parziale could barely break 80 and couldn't win a tournament in high school, but he found his way to Southeastern University, an NAIA school in Lakeland, Fla. Playing golf in Florida during the winter sounded appealing, and he developed into the golfer he always thought he could be.

Good enough to turn pro? He gave it a shot, spending three years on mini-tours with more frustration than success. One break, one great week might have changed everything. Parziale could have kept trying, but that would have put him further behind if he wanted to start a career.

So he became a firefighter, just like his father, Vic, a captain at the Brockton Fire Department.

Parziale applied to be reinstated as an amateur, and he remained competitive in New England – three times the Massachusetts Golf Association Player of the Year three times – with a schedule that allowed for golf when he wasn't working his 24-hour shifts at the station.

He dreamed in college of playing the Masters and U.S. Open. He'll be going to Augusta National as a firefighter.

The U.S. Mid-Amateur, for players 25 or older, was created for post-college players who did not pursue a career in golf. Parziale was among 43 percent of players at Capital City Club who previously had been a pro, though he was worthy of reinstatement. His short time as a pro featured long hours and low play. His calling was on a rooftop, not on tour.

''I'm on the ladder,'' he says of his job. ''We go to the roof, put holes in the roof or search a floor that a fire is not on.''

His biggest rush was working a house fire with his father, who is approaching retirement.

''The fire scene is chaos,'' said Parziale, who can appreciate the difference between real chaos and anything that transpires on a golf course.

His father caddied for him at the U.S. Mid-Amateur, and he'll be on the bag at the Masters and U.S. Open. His fiancée, Ali, was at Capital City Club, the first time she's been to a tournament. They already have set their wedding date for Aug. 18, the same day as the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach.

''Now she's into whether she should change the date,'' he said.

Parziale never knew winning could create so much disruption. Considering where he's been and what he does, these are nice problems to have.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


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“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


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Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


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J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''