Coody carries family legacy into TOUR debut
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Grandson of Masters champion set to play Shriners
Written by Kevin Robbins
When the starter welcomes Parker Coody to the first round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, even ardent observers might not recall his berth in the Round of 16 at the 2019 U.S. Amateur, which he made with another Coody, his twin brother Pierceson. That’s right. One-eighth of the players remaining at the historic Pinehurst Resort last year were Coodys.
This year, Pierceson won the Western Amateur, considered by many to be the second-biggest prize in amateur golf, and Parker won one of the top collegiate events, the Southern Highlands Collegiate. That latter accomplishment came with a special perk: a sponsor exemption into this week’s PGA TOUR event.
But victories in prestigious amateur events earn the attention of only a small sliver of golf fans. If the Coody name sounds familiar, it is likely for another reason. A win that came almost 50 years ago, but that is commemorated annually with the Champions Dinner at Augusta National.
It was in 1971 when their grandfather won the Masters Tournament. Charles Coody, a U.S. Air Force veteran from the small West Texas town of Stamford, beat Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller by two strokes that spring in Georgia. It was the last of three titles Charles won in a career that spanned 629 starts.
Charles’ grandson is now making his first. And Charles’ son, Kyle, who played at Texas and a couple of times on the PGA TOUR, will caddie for his son at TPC Summerlin.
“I want to play as well as I can and see where I stack up,” Parker said from Austin. He knows the learning curve will be steep. “I think one of the things I try to work on is having zero expectations. There’s nothing else I can do.”
What would Charles tell his grandson now, on the eve of his PGA TOUR debut? The same thing he told Parker’s brother long ago, when the family was gathered for a wedding at Barton Creek, a big resort and private club in the hills west of Austin. Parker and Pierceson were on the driving range, and Pierceson was having a hard time, as boys learning the golf swing do.
Charles thought about what to do. He thought even more carefully about how to do it.
“I just went over and sat down with him and encouraged him,” he said. He wasn’t being a retired TOUR pro with sage advice. He was being a grandfather.
“All you’ve got to do is believe in yourself,” he told Pierceson that day. He would tell Parker the same thing now.
Parker intends to represent his family with integrity this week, regardless of strokes lost or gained. He is conscious of the Coody legacy but not consumed by it.
It’s a lineage that dates back to 1950, when Charles watched the annual invitational at Colonial Country Club, now known as the Charles Schwab Challenge. He watched Sam Snead win and was immediately mesmerized.
The experience changed his life. Charles, an only child, taught himself to play on a nine-hole course that had “more rocks than grass,” he said last week from his home in Abilene, where he lives in retirement with his wife of 60 years, Lynette. “But I’m just so thankful it was there.”
He and Don Massengale of Jacksboro, Texas, formed the core of the freshman team at TCU in the fall of 1955. Charles enlisted in the military after college, joined the TOUR in 1963 and won all three of his titles in the span of seven years, from 1964 (the Dallas Open) to the Masters.
Colonial was one of his favorite stops on the PGA TOUR, right up there with the Masters. He played it for 25 consecutive years and had his chances to win. He finished second there once.
“I have four or five disappointments in my PGA TOUR career, and that was one of them,” Charles said.
Another disappointment: No spectators were allowed at the Colonial Collegiate Classic the last week of September, which means Charles and Lynette, whom the grandchildren call “Ditty,” were unable to watch Parker and Pierceson play. The Longhorns finished second. Pierceson shot 66-74-69, good for second individually. So many seconds for the Coody clan at Colonial. Parker shot even par, including a final-round 67, and finished fifth, one shot behind his brother and just three behind the winner, Oklahoma’s Logan McAllister.
Charles turned 83 in July. He left professional golf in 2006. By then he had made 38 starts in the Masters. In his last appearance, he brought his 6-year-old grandsons as his caddies in the Par-3 Contest, when the old champions try to reclaim a little Augusta glory, one short iron and green slope at a time. The twins got white overalls, just like the grownups.
It was quite a moment for the Coody family. That Thursday, their 69-year-old grandfather labored to an opening 89. He was a stroke under par after 15 holes in the second round. A knowing crowd gathered to watch him finish. He climbed the famous hill at No. 18 to a sincere greenside reception, the kind the patrons in Augusta unfailingly give to the end of a Masters career.
“That’s what the boys got to see,” said Kyle, who caddied for his father in the competition rounds.
The Coody twins drifted from golf a couple of years later. They took up football and other team sports. Kyle, meanwhile, had begun working with Chris Como, a young teaching professional at a driving range called Golden Bear Golf Center, and then later at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas. When Parker and Pierceson decided to concentrate solely on golf, Como was there to shape them.
That was long before Como had clients such as Bryson DeChambeau and Tiger Woods, a television show on Golf Channel and the Living Room Lab -- a house in the Dallas suburb of Frisco retrofitted with free weights, a squat rack, high-speed cameras, force plates and launch monitors. But Como still knew good golf stock when he saw it. Both boys were committed, driven and athletic.
“There’s no real limit of how good they can be,” Como said.
The brothers excelled at Plano West High School. Parker (the oldest, by 37 minutes) won the 2017 individual title in Class 6A – the largest classification in Texas high school golf. They had interest from the best programs in the country. Kyle, their father, had played for Texas from 1983 to 1987. But he encouraged them to make their own decisions.
They did just that. Parker and Pierceson, the 14th- and 25th-ranked players in the Class of 2018, respectively, chose the Longhorns.
The twins made an immediate impact in Austin. Parker played in four tournaments as a freshman. Pierceson played in six. Last year, the Coodys were part of the Texas team that beat a loaded Oklahoma State squad, with Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland, in a thrilling semifinal match of the NCAA Championship at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“It’s been everything that we’ve wanted,” Pierceson said.
Texas head coach John Fields noticed something right away about the twins. They reminded him of the Byrum brothers, Curt and Tom, who both won on the PGA TOUR. The Byrums were teammates with Fields at New Mexico. “They were tough,” Fields said. They also pushed each other, like Parker and Pierceson do. And when one does well, the other seems to rise too.
“They seem to kind of feed off each other and each other’s success,” Fields said.
With his father on his bag and a wider audience watching, Parker is curious to see how he stacks up. He and Kyle have made a list of goals. One of them involves embracing the experience that both Parker and Pierceson hope to enjoy as a long, prosperous career.
“When we turn pro,” Parker said, “we’ll have it all together.”
This week could have ramifications for Parker’s pro career. Not only could it give him good exposure, but he can earn valuable points for PGA TOUR University. Unveiled earlier this year, that program ranks players based on results in collegiate and professional events during their final two years of college golf. Players in the top five of the rankings after their fourth season earn exempt status on the Korn Ferry Tour, while Nos. 6-15 receive starts on the PGA TOUR’s international circuits.
Back home in Abilene, their grandparents will follow his progress from afar. In the den in their home hangs a portrait of a tall, dark-haired man in a green jacket “who even walks with a drawl,” Dan Jenkins wrote for Sports Illustrated after the 1971 Masters. Coody knows he was no Nicklaus or Miller. “I just play along in living black and white,” he told Jenkins.
He doesn’t play at all anymore. Charles had hip surgery recently and just doesn’t get around the way he used to. He suffered a stroke in 2018 that diminished his eyesight, so it’s hard for him to follow a ball in the air. He’s asked Kyle to text him Parker’s score on every hole this week at TPC Summerlin. He imagines it’ll help him feel like he’s walking along, witnessing each little triumph and disappointment.
He will, as he often does, remember with gratitude the bonds that golf has formed in his family. Golf gave him a way to spend time with his grandsons on terms everyone understood and no one took for granted. They’ve played so many rounds at Diamondback National, the public course in Abilene that Charles designed and owned, that he can track the progress of Parker and Pierceson through certain basic benchmarks: the first time he saw them record a par to take the honor on the next tee, the first time they outdrove him, the first time they beat him.
“I have a lot of beautiful memories of playing with the boys,” Charles said.
More memories will be made this week as Parker takes the next step in his promising career and advances the family’s legacy.