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.

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.


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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Web.com Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “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.”


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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”

Rookie Cook (66) handling RSM like a pro

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:24 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Of all the impressive statistics Austin Cook has put up this week at the RSM Classic – he is first in strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach to the green and scrambling – the one number that stands out is 49.

That’s how many holes Cook went this week without a bogey or worse, a moment that prompted his caddie, Kip Henley, to joke, “The dream is over.”

That loss of momentum at the 14th hole didn’t last long, with the PGA Tour rookie making birdie at the next hole on his way to a third-round 66 and a three-stroke lead.

“Bouncing back from any bogey with a birdie is nice and helps get the number right back. Being my only bogey of the week so far, it was really nice to be able to get that back on the next hole,” said Cook, who leads Chris Kirk at 18 under par. “Going into tomorrow with a three-shot lead instead of a two-shot lead I think is crucial.”


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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Although this is the first time Cook has held a 54-hole lead on the Tour, in fact it’s just his fourth start as a Tour member, he has experienced Sunday pressure before. In 2015, he began the final round at the Shell Houston Open one stroke off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.

“Back then my game was good as well, but mentally I've grown a lot and matured a lot and been able to kind of just let small things on the golf course roll off my shoulder instead of getting tied up in one little small mistake,” said Cook, who closed with a 75 at the ’15 Shell Houston Open to tie for 11th.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.