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.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."