Augusta’s Scott Parel scored his second victory since joining the Champions Tour in 2015, but like his first win, it came in an unofficial event.
Parel captured the Diamond Resort Invitational in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., an event featuring Champions Tour players, a handful of LPGA Tour members and an amateur field that included athletes and celebrities from the entertainment industry.
The 54-hole event was played under a modified Stableford format, with Parel winning in a playoff over fellow Georgia resident Scott Dunlap in a playoff. Both players finished with 93 points for the tournament, with birdies counting for three points, pars for one point, bogeys for no points and double bogeys or worse costing two points.
Parel led after each round, opening with 34 points compiled with nine birdies and seven pars. Parel tallied 27 points the second day, with his lead shrinking from two points to one. Dunlap was second after compiling 32 points the first day and remained within two points of Parel after scoring 27 points the next day. Dunlap amassed 34 points in the final round to 32 for Parel, with a birdie at the par-3 18th enabling Dunlap to get into a playoff.
A birdie on the par-5 17th pulled Parel even with Dunlap, and he would have won outright with a par at the 18th, but made bogey on the hole to remain tied for the lead. He won the playoff with a par on the 18th after Dunlap hit his tee shot on the par into the water guarding the green.
“I’m thrilled to death to win the golf tournament,” Parel said. “My expectations were pretty low, just because of the way I was feeling,”
Parel, who graduated from Georgia but never made an attempt to qualify for the golf team, attended the national championship game between Georgia and Alabama in Atlanta the Monday night before the tournament, but came down with the flu the next day and spent the following two days in bed.
As a result, he did not get in a practice round and had not played the course prior to the first round.
“Maybe that was a good thing,” he said about his lack of expectations related to his health. Although he was not 100 percent in Friday’s opening round, Parel posted the best score of the day and remained ahead after 36 holes. He and Dunlap battled for the lead down the stretch, with John Daly placing third with 88 points, five out of the playoff.
Parel took home $125,000 from a purse of $760,000, with Dunlap collecting $75,000 for his runner-up finish in the 32-player field. Parel’s first win after turning 50 came in the finals of Champions Tour qualifying late in 2015 that earned him a spot on the tour in 2016.
While Dunlap played all over the world early in his pro career prior to spending almost two decades on the PGA and Web.com Tours, Parel spent most of his time as a pro at the mini-tour level before making it to the Web.com Tour for the first time in his late 30s.
Parel made a handful of starts on the PGA Tour as a Monday qualifier, making one cut in the BellSouth Classic at TPC Sugarloaf in 2006. He struggled to make his mark on the Web.com Tour until he hit his late 40s, placing in the top 35 on the money list in 2012 and 2013, winning for the only time in 222 starts on the tour in 2013.
After his victory in Wichita in 2013, Parel had a chance to become a PGA Tour rookie the next year at the age of 49 but was unable to finish among the top 25 on the money list. He turned 50 in 2015 and spent most of 2016 as a Monday qualifier on the Champions Tour, earning most of his 15 starts with his play in pre-tournament qualifiers.
After back-to-back top 10s in the first two Schwab Cup Playoffs events, Parel moved into the top 50 on the Champions Tour money list but needed to attend Q-school to gain exempt status for 2017. Parel won the qualifying tournament and enjoyed an excellent season, earning almost $877,000 to finish 21st on the 2017 money list, highlighted by a tie for second in the Regions Tradition, one of the tour’s five majors.
Parel did not turn pro until after he turned 30, spending his first decade after graduating from Georgia in the computer programming field.
While Parel was making his living in his 20s outside golf, Dunlap spent his early years as pro winning nine tournaments in South America, South Africa, and Canada. He played six full seasons on the PGA Tour between 1996 and 2002 and contended in both the PGA Championship and Players, but spent almost all the next decade on the Web.com Tour before joining the Champions Tour in 2014.
Dunlap, a long-time Duluth resident, won twice on the Web.com Tour but did not make it back to the PGA Tour until he was almost 50, playing there for one season in 2012. During his time on the Web.com Tour, Dunlap almost won the PGA Tour event at Sugarloaf in 2005 after getting into the tournament as a Monday qualifier.
Since joining the Champions Tour in 2014, Dunlap has been a consistently successful performer, placing in the top 15 on the money list each of his first three seasons and placing 25th last year. He won in his “rookie” season of 2014 in Seattle and has five runner-up finishes and placed third five times in his four seasons on tour.