AUGUSTA — More than a year ago — 54 weeks, to be exact — Scott Parel left Raleigh, N.C., following one of the toughest defeats of his career.
Parel, who’s been chasing his dream of making the PGA Tour since 1997, lost to James Hahn on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff. A win likely would’ve propelled Parel to the PGA Tour through the Web.com Tour’s money list. His family and friends were devastated. Parel, though, was OK with the runner-up finish, the best of his Web.com career.
“I was not that unhappy last year,” said Parel, who graduated from Georgia in 1986 with a degree in computer science but did not play on the golf team. “I wasn’t as torn up about it as my family.
“Last week was sweet redemption for them.”
After battling back and swing issues earlier in the year, the 48-year-old Augusta native finally broke through Sunday. Nursing a one-shot lead after 54 holes, Parel posted a final-round, 7-under-par 64 – including a birdie-eagle-birdie stretch on the back nine – to win the Web.com’s Air Capital Classic in Wichita, Kan., by three shots.
“I felt very calm,” he said. “I wasn’t really thinking about winning.”
After the victory, Parel said he received 150 text messages, many of them from his various Augusta friends who either went to high school with him at Aquinas, play golf with him at West Lake Country Club or attend church with him at St. Mary’s on the Hill.
“It’s amazing how many people have been behind me, encouraging me. It’s been awesome,” he said. “You don’t really realize how many people are behind you.”
West Lake director of golf Kirk Hice added: “Everybody is extremely excited for him and his accomplishments. He’s just a great guy to have around the club.
“The thing I most admire about him is his demeanor around the course. He doesn’t get too high and he doesn’t get too low.”
After the victory, Parel departed Wichita at 6 a.m. Monday, arriving back at the scene of last year’s runner-up finish. He teed off in the Rex Hospital Open pro-am in the afternoon, rolling in a long putt for eagle on the par-5 hole where he lost to Hahn on a birdie.
Parel, who has two children – Kayla and Cory – with his wife, Mary, took Tuesday off before returning to play in another pro-am Wednesday.
Parel said he feels comfortable playing the TPC Wakefield Plantation course — he tees off at 7 this morning in the first round of the Rex Hospital Open. Should he continue his momentum and post another high finish, he’ll increase his odds of securing his PGA Tour card for the 2013-14 season. With his win, Parel climbed from 153rd to 14th on the money list with $124,808 in season earnings.
If he finishes in the top 25 on the money list at the conclusion of the Cox Classic — the Web.com’s final regular season event in late August — Parel will earn his PGA Tour card, finally accomplishing his dream.
“It wasn’t at all on my radar before last week,” he said. “Now that I’m there, I’m reevaluating what I need to do. I want to get as far up as I can on that list.”