In baseball, if you get two hits every five at-bats over the course of a season, you bat .400, something that hasn’t been accomplished in 75 years.
After five full-field events on the 2016 Champions Tour, Augusta’s Scott Parel is 5-for-5 in Monday/Tuesday qualifiers, with his fifth successful attempt coming in the recent Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf.
Parel, who has played on the Web.com Tour since 2003 and remains a member as he nears his 51st birthday, is looking to move beyond the Monday qualifier category, something he became all too familiar with during his long Web.com stint.
To do that, he has to play more like he’s done on Mondays and Tuesdays as opposed to his play on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which has not been as impressive.
After five 2016 starts on the Champions Tour, Parel was 56th in earnings with $50,975, with his best finishes a tie for 19th in his first tournament of the year in Boca Raton, Fla., and a tie for 28th in Tucson. The other three starts, he placed between 40th and 60th, including a tie for 41st at Sugarloaf.
Parel, who grew up in Augusta and still lives there, discussed his unusual rookie season on the Champions Tour after the first round of the Mitsubishi Electric Classic, when he shot 1-over 217 after rounds of 73-73-71.
“It’s been about what I expected,” he said of the Champions Tour. “You’ve got to play. You can’t just come out and dominate. The guys here play well and know how to get it in the hole. It’s been eye-opening a little bit.”
Parel, who is one of the shortest players in professional golf at 5-foot-5, has gone from being around average in length off the tee on the Web.com Tour to being in the top 10 in driving distance as a senior.
“I was pretty much in the middle on the Web.com, but out here I hit it a little farther than most. I thought my distance would give me a little bigger advantage, but it doesn’t help if you don’t make any putts.”
Through the Mitsubishi Classic, Parel was ninth in driving distance on the Champions Tour with an average of 287 yards, and his putting numbers were respectable, although he has struggled somewhat on the greens in the final round, which has accounted for his highest scoring average coming on Sundays.
A poor final round in his season opener in Naples cost Parel a possible top-10 finish, with his closing 71 at Sugarloaf just his second under-par Sunday round in five attempts.
Fortunately for Parel, scoring has not been a problem when he’s teed it up in the five Champions Tour qualifiers held on Monday or Tuesday of tournament week.
Parel, who spent much of his Web.com Tour career needing to make it through Monday qualifiers to get into tournament fields, has averaged 67 in his five Champions Tour qualifiers, and has finished tied for fourth or better in each of the five. With one exception, the qualifiers were playing for four spots in the tournament field, with Parel twice having to go to a playoff to earn his spot.
Two days after his final round 75 in Boca Raton, Parel was back on the course in Naples, Fla., and needed only a par on the par-5 18th hole to earn one of four spots in the field. Parel bogeyed the hole to wind up in an 8-way tie for fourth place.
No problem. He eagled the par-5 first hole to quickly put an end to the 8-man playoff and needed to go to a playoff again in the next tour event in Tucson. That one was a much more manageable four-players-for-three-spots playoff, with Parel again emerging as one of event’s qualifiers.
Parel did not need extra holes to enjoy success in his other three qualifying attempts thanks to a pair of 66s and a 65 in the recent Mitsubishi Electric Classic qualifier at Country Club of the South. The 65 at CCoS included a double bogey on the opening hole, but Parel shrugged off his faltering start, running off nine birdies on the next 17 holes to finish second in the qualifier.
After turning 50 in May of last year, Parel made several attempts at Champions Tour qualifiers between Web.com events, but was successful just once, frequently having to play a course he had not seen prior to the qualifying round.
“Last year I came in blind and did not do as well,” Parel said. “This year I’ve had time to prepare.”
When the Champions Tour plays back-to-back weeks, the qualifier for the following tournament is pushed back to Tuesday, allowing players like Parel to get in a practice round on Monday if they played in the tour event the day before.
After competing in qualifiers that sometimes included as many as 300 players, Parel is much more comfortable on the Champions Tour, where 40 or so golfers compete for four or more spots.
“The odds are much better,” says Parel, who also admits that the scores required to qualify are typically not as low on the Champions Tour.
“In the PGA and Web.com qualifiers, I had to be at my best. There is less pressure here. If I play well on Monday or Tuesday, I know I have a chance. I don’t feel like I have to shoot really low.”
Parel believes he has the capability to transfer the quality of his play in qualifiers into the tournaments.
“On Mondays and Tuesday’s I’ve putted lights out, but the greens are tougher and firmer in the tournament. Then there’s the pressure of playing in the tournament and I just have not putted with quite as much confidence.
“There’s also a little different mindset. During every tournament, it seems like I bogey the first hole. I don’t feel that nervous, but maybe I’m more relaxed than I should be.”
Parel was 56th in earnings when the tour left Duluth, but by the time he tees it up in his next Champions Tour event – the Senior PGA Championship — he will likely drop out of the top 70 on the money list after missing three straight events.
With his playing opportunities limited, Parel will have to perform well when gets the opportunity if he wants to qualify for the first ever Champions Tour playoffs later this season.
The top 72 players on the money list at the end of the regular season will get into the field for the first playoff event in Los Angeles in late October, with the field reduced to 54 the next week and then 36 for the Schwab Cup Championship.
Parel would need to make it to the Schwab Cup Championship to be exempt for next year, and the advent of the playoffs makes it “a little bit easier for guys with no status like me,” says Parel, who in the past would have needed to be in the top 30 to be exempt and the top 50 to have limited status for the following year.
Until then, Parel says it’s “Monday, Monday, Monday. It’s difficult, but it is what it is.”
So far, Parel says his experience in Monday qualifiers has been “really fantastic,” but with some idle time before his next Champions Tour start, Parel will try his hand at a few Web.com events, and may need to go through a Monday qualifier or two.
“I’ve done so many of them, I don’t even think about Monday qualifying. There’s no shame in that. It’s just part of the deal.”
Parel’s first start after qualifying for the tournament at Sugarloaf came in Greenville, S.C., as he got into the field of the Web.com event there without having to qualify early in the week.
Parel took a unique path to arrive at his current location, which helps explain his positive attitude in the face of the obstacles he has to overcome to find a home on the Champions Tour.
Unlike almost all the players he has competed against for the past two decades, Parel did not play golf in college and did not turn pro until he was in his early 30s. Parel attended the U. of Georgia and graduated with a degree in computer science. He elected to concentrate on his studies in Athens, although he did make an attempt to walk on to the baseball team.
After a decade in the business world, Parel was convinced by some of the members at West Lake Country Club to take a shot at playing professionally, and they backed his initial efforts, which consisted mainly of playing on regional mini-tours.
Parel played well enough at the mini-tour level to keep going, but was already 38 when he made it to the Web.com Tour in 2003. His rookie season did not go very well, but he made it back two years later and has remained on the tour ever since.
After making just 10 combined starts in 2010 and ’11, Parel enjoyed his two best years as a pro in 2012 and ’13, placing 35th and 31st on the money list in his late 40s. He lost in a playoff in Raleigh in 2012 and scored his lone Web.com victory in Wichita the following year, but was unable to finish in the top 25 on the money list and earn his PGA Tour card.
Parel struggled throughout 2014, but bounced back with a better showing last year, hoping to play his rookie season on the PGA Tour this year at the age of 51. But he got bumped out of the top 75 the final week of the season, just missing the cutoff for getting to compete in the four events that make up the Web.com Finals, which offers PGA Tour cards to the top 25 money winners from that series of tournaments.