One month after turning 48, Augusta’s Scott Parel took his biggest step toward reaching a goal that always seemed a bit beyond his grasp.
With a victory in a recent Web.com Tour event in Wichita, Parel is in position to earn a spot on the 2014 PGA Tour, a remarkable achievement for someone who did not turn pro until he was in his early 30s.
Parel would be the oldest PGA Tour rookie ever, replacing fellow Georgian Allen Doyle, who was 47 when he joined the tour in 1997.
To earn a spot on next year’s PGA Tour, Parel must remain in the top 25 on the Web.com Tour money list through the final regular season event in August. Parel, who was 153rd on the money list coming into the Wichita tournament, moved up to 14th with earnings of almost $125,000.
It will likely take somewhere in the $140,000 range to finish in the top 25, with Parel having eight tournaments left in July and August to collect another $15,000 or so. Parel made only $7,800 through the first 11 tournaments, but after his outstanding performance in Wichita, appears in great shape to make his PGA Tour debut next year, less than a year-and-a-half before he turns 50.
Parel has been grinding away in golf’s minor leagues his entire professional career, which did not begin until 10 years after he graduated from the University of Georgia in 1986 with a degree in computer science.
Unlike the four other ex-Bulldogs who have won on either the PGA or Web.com Tours this year, Parel did not play on the golf team in Athens, with his game not sufficiently advanced to compete at that level. He tried out for the baseball team as a middle infielder, but did not make the roster.
After graduating, Parel returned home to Augusta, where he put his college degree to use and also developed into one of the better amateurs in the area. He qualified for the 1994 U.S. Amateur and made it to match play at TPC Sawgrass, and that started him thinking about the possibility of a professional career.
Not long after his wife Mary gave birth to the couple’s second child, Parel decided to give pro golf a shot, allowing himself five years to make a go of it. He enjoyed some success at the mini-tour level, but was unable to move beyond that, He qualified for four events on what is now the Web.com Tour, but did not make the cut in any of them, and was unable to advance to the finals of Q-school.
Parel qualified for the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage and made his first Nationwide Tour cut one month later. He closed out the year by making it to the finals of Q-school and earned Nationwide Tour status for 2003. He has played on the tour ever since, some years as an exempt member, some with no status when he was able to make just a handful of starts.
The first year as a tour member did not go well for Parel, who made the cut in just 2 of 16 starts and lost his status. He returned to the tour full time in 2005 – notching his first top 10 finish — and also made his second U.S. Open appearance. He was a Nationwide Tour member for the next five years, playing respectably for the most part but never seriously threatening to earn his PGA Tour card.
Parel lost his status again after the 2009 season, and spent the next two years back on the mini-tours, occasionally playing his way into Nationwide Tour events in Monday qualifiers. A strong showing in the finals of Q-school came up just short, as he missed by just one shot of earning his PGA Tour card.
That gave Parel exempt status on the Nationwide Tour for just the second time, and he enjoyed his best season as a pro last year, placing 35th in earnings with $147,000. He nearly scored his first win on the tour, losing in a playoff in Raleigh, N.C. He dropped out of the top 25 on the money list during the latter stages of the season and was unable to repeat his successful effort in the finals of Q-school, sending him back to the re-named Web.com Tour this year.
Parel was slowed for much of the early stages of this season with a back injury, and made just two of his first nine cuts before a decent showing in the Washington, D.C. area. After a week off, Parel came back with the best week of his career, winning one of just a handful of Web.com events that was part of the Hogan Tour’s initial schedule in 1990.
With his victory, Parel added his name to the list of tournament champions in Wichita that includes Tom Lehman, David Duval, David Toms, Ben Crane, Jason Dufner, Scott Piercy and Jhonattan Vegas.
Parel won with an outstanding all-around performance. He was 5th in both in fairways hit (73 percent) and greens in regulation (75 percent) and 2nd in putting. Parel was a respectable 32nd in driving distance, averaging right at 300 yards, an impressive number for someone who is just 5-5 in height. He recorded 22 birdies and two eagles, both coming on a par 5 on the back nine. He eagled the hole late in the third round Saturday, helping to give him a one-stroke lead heading to the final round.
Finding himself in the unaccustomed position of leading after 54 holes, Parel responded with the low round on Sunday, firing a 7-under 64 that included four birdies on the front nine and a birdie-eagle-birdie stretch on the incoming nine that enabled him to pull away from his challengers.
Parel finished the tournament at 18-under 268, three ahead of the runner-up and five clear of 3rd place.
A 45-footer for eagle at the 14th was part of a stretch of five straight key putts by Parel, including a clutch pair of par-savers to start the streak.
“All week long over longer putts, I felt like I could make them;” he said after his victory. “You get in the zone with the putter. I didn’t feel nearly as comfortable from maybe four or five feet, but from 20 feet and out, I felt like I had the speed and was seeing the lines well.”
The victory has altered Parel’s outlook on his aim for the remainder of the season.
“My goal was to get in the top 75,” he said, referring to the spot on the money list required to qualify for a four-tournament series at the end of the Web.com Tour season that will determine the status for the players who earn berths on the 2014 PGA Tour.
“I may have to re-evaluate. I want to do what it takes to be in the top 25.”
The top 25 finishers on the Web.com Tour money list at the end of the regular season are guaranteed spots on the 2014 PGA Tour. But their position for next year will be determined by their play in the four post-season events, which will also include players from the PGA Tour, who will compete for 25 additional spots for next season along with other Web.com members.
Parel still needs another strong tournament showing or two to secure his PGA Tour card for 2014, and will need to play well in the four Finals events to put him near the top of the priority list for the 50 qualifiers.
“At the last tournament, I felt like I was close to where I needed to be,” Parel said.
“The great thing about winning is that I’m going to be 49 next year, and I’ll have some place to play.”