Coodys' path paved across decades
12 Min Read
As Pierceson and Parker Coody begin their pro careers, the insight and experience of their Masters-winning grandfather proves invaluable
Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
ARLINGTON, Texas – An elderly man takes his place along the gallery ropes on a serene Sunday in suburban Dallas, angling for the best vantage point to observe his grandson line up a 12-foot par putt on the eighth hole at Texas Rangers Golf Club. He uses a persimmon 4-wood as a cane to maintain his balance. Better than collecting dust in the garage, he quips.
The grandson, Parker Coody, has fallen far off the lead in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Veritex Bank Championship, but his grandfather senses the tension. Every stroke still carries great importance because each one could determine how many starts he gets for the remainder of the season. That’s life as a conditional member on the Korn Ferry Tour.
Parker drains the par putt, a timely save after a tee shot into thick brush left of the fairway. Grandpa nods and smiles, then pulls out his phone to check the leaderboard. He cannot be in two places at once but technology allows him to track his other grandson competing this week, Parker’s twin brother Pierceson. Grandpa was there when Pierceson made five consecutive birdies earlier in the day and now he’s rooting from afar for one more.
“No. 18 is gettable,” observes the boys’ grandfather. “He could use one there.”
If anyone’s grandfather can relate to the pressure of a Sunday afternoon, it’s theirs.
Charles Coody relishes sharing the golf journey with grandsons Pierceson and Parker
Their grandfather is Charles Coody, the former Masters champion and veteran of a combined 1,110 starts across the PGA TOUR (629) and PGA TOUR Champions (481). Only six players have made more. Charles beat two of the game’s greats, Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller, to win the 1971 Masters. The pair of World Golf Hall of Famers tied for second, two strokes back of Charles. It was one of the great upsets in Masters history. “Cool Charles Coody Wins Masters” declared one headline. It was the last of his three PGA TOUR wins and came just two years after he lost a one-stroke lead with three holes remaining in the Masters. Charles also served on the PGA TOUR Policy Board and worked closely with multiple commissioners to shape the future of the TOUR.
Pierceson and Parker are now following in the family trade. They’re both on the Korn Ferry Tour in their first full season as pros. Both played for the University of Texas, leading the Longhorns to the 2022 NCAA title. Pierceson was the No. 1 player in PGA TOUR University last year, while Parker ranked 13th. They both parlayed the status they earned to win shortly after turning pro. Pierceson won on the Korn Ferry Tour in his third start, while Parker needed just six starts to win on PGA TOUR Canada. Pierceson added another Korn Ferry Tour victory this year and ranks sixth on the circuit’s points list; the top 30 at season’s end will earn PGA TOUR cards.
This week, the Coody grandchildren will compete at the TOUR’s AT&T Byron Nelson outside Dallas, just 15 miles from their hometown of Plano. Charles will be there.
The course may have changed, and decades may have passed, but there’s a certain family history at the AT&T Byron Nelson. It’s where Charles won his first TOUR title in 1964, in what was then known as the Dallas Open Invitational. He outlasted Jerry Edwards by a shot. Others in the top 20 included Billy Casper, Raymond Floyd, Gay Brewer, Don January and Chi Chi Rodriguez.
The game has changed plenty since Charles’ heyday. Though his grandsons undoubtedly aspire to join him as major champions, there is no comparing their games to his.
“They’re a lot better players at a corresponding age than I ever thought about being,” Charles said.
“I’ve never tried to compare myself to them, and I hope they don’t compare themselves to me, because what I did and what they can possibly achieve are two different things.”
Charles Coody on his grandsons Pierceson and Parker
“We’ll see how it turns out."
1970 Masters champion Billy Casper (L) presents Charles Coody with the green jacket at the 1971 Masters. (Augusta National/Getty Images)
Charles earned his way onto the TOUR through Monday qualifiers, the proverbial “rabbit” before the creation of the all-exempt TOUR. Making the cut meant the chance to compete in the next event. Otherwise, it was back to the uncertainty of a Monday qualifier. The path has changed but the ethos remains the same. Shoot the scores to earn your spot.
Today, Pierceson and Parker are navigating the Korn Ferry Tour in their pursuit of a PGA TOUR card.
Pierceson has a head start; he began the season with full status after winning last year’s Live & Work in Maine Open. Charles was in church while Pierceson was making five birdies and an eagle to shoot a front-nine 28. He followed live scoring for every hole of the back nine, culminating in a FaceTime call afterward.
“You worried me a little bit with those two bogeys there on 10 and 11,” Charles said in the call.
“I didn’t hit every fairway. I know you would’ve,” quipped Pierceson, who greeted his grandpa as ‘Pro’ to begin the call.
Pierceson fell just short of a TOUR card last summer, a left-hand injury forcing him to withdraw from the Korn Ferry Tour’s season finale and requiring surgery to remove a bone. But he caught fire in a final-round 66 at The Panama Championship in February, storming from outside the top 20 and ultimately defeating Sam Saunders, the grandson of another Masters champion, in a playoff. Saunders’ grandfather, Arnold Palmer, won four green jackets, the final one coming seven years before Charles’ victory.
After finishing 107th at last year’s Q-School, Parker is living the life of a modern-day “rabbit.” His conditional status means he must chase starts via Monday qualifiers and sponsor exemptions. In late February, he shot 63 to qualify for the Astara Chile Classic. It was 18 strokes lower than the score he shot a day earlier in the qualifier for the PGA TOUR’s Puerto Rico Open. The learning curve, epitomized.
Parker also Monday qualified for The Honda Classic on the PGA TOUR, shooting 74-76 to miss the cut. It was the first of five PGA TOUR events Pierceson has played this year, as well. He was one off the lead after a first-round 66 but failed to break par in any of the final three rounds and finished T63. He also contended at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard; his third-round 66 matched the low round of the day and moved him into the top 10. He fell to 14th after a final-round 73, including bogeys on his final two holes, however. He’s made the cut in three of those five starts, but Bay Hill represents his only finish in the top 50.
“When you hit a bad shot, which you’re going to, everybody does, everybody hits bad shots, … just go to the next shot and play that shot as well as you can,” Charles said. “Forget the other one, because it’s history. Nothing’s going to change it, and a lot of times when you hit a poor shot, you get a little miffed with yourself and stuff like that. If you’re not careful, it can erode into the next shot.
“I learned that with experience, but I didn’t learn it good enough. So I’m hoping that’s what they learn.”
Charles Coody photographs his grandsons Pierceson and Parker at the 2008 Masters Par 3 Contest. (Harry How/Getty Images)
The Coody family’s Texas heritage dates back generations, but its golf origin story begins in upstate New York. Charles’ father Richard enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II, inspired to mobilize shortly after Pearl Harbor. His unit was stationed in Schenectady, New York – outside Albany, about 170 miles up the Hudson River from New York City. Golf was a popular pursuit among the unit during its downtime. Little did Richard Coody realize he had planted the seeds for a vocation that would span generations of Coodys. He ultimately made his way back to small Stamford, Texas, a town of just a few thousand residents. It’s where Charles was born and took up the game, encouraged by his dad, as a middle-schooler.
Richard Coody passed away in 1991, nine years before Pierceson and Parker were born, but very much remains on the mind. Richard would request that Pierceson trim his facial hair a bit, Charles joked as Pierceson rolled off five straight birdies. It was a trademark run, Charles observed, where Pierceson finds a groove and starts pouring in putts.
The 13th at Texas Rangers GC is a drivable par 4, and Pierceson played his tee shot short and right of the green, leaving a 40-yard uphill pitch. Charles displayed a particular interest in how his grandson would approach this shot. Would he opt for a higher-lofted club or play a bump-and-run? Where would he land the ball? Charles believes improvement in this area of the game could push Pierceson onto the next rung of the game’s ladder.
Pierceson played an in-between shot, the ball landing just short of the hole and running 12 feet past the hole, coming to rest on the fringe. He surveyed the putt, took his time and buried it for his fifth consecutive birdie. Charles nodded and clapped with approval. The run was in full swing. From Pierceson’s mannerisms, though, one might surmise he was on a string of routine pars – and that’s perfectly fine with Charles.
Pierceson and Parker both display an even keel on the course, ensuring not to get too high or too low. These are traits acquired as third-generation professional golfers – their dad Kyle, Charles’ son, played at the University of Texas and competed on the Korn Ferry Tour in the early 1990s.
Coody brothers share stage at The Honda Classic
Charles couldn’t always tell them apart in their early years, but as personalities began to develop, the differences became clearer. Charles laughs when reminiscing about the twins’ childhood visits to his house in Abilene and the card games that ensued. Pierceson didn't enjoy losing. Charles called him “effervescent.” Parker was more reserved.
If the twins’ demeanors differ, their interests align. They were immersed in various sports from a young age. They particularly enjoyed football, but they didn’t have the requisite size to play at the highest level. The competition has continued, however, culminating when they both broke their arms while competing in a relay race during their senior season at Texas.
Broken bones haven’t been the only result, however. Accolades have been aplenty. Before turning pro, Pierceson attained the top spot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and won the prestigious Western Amateur. Parker was runner-up in last year’s NCAA Championship, falling to Vanderbilt’s Gordon Sargent in a four-man playoff.
PGA TOUR University has streamlined the transition to professional golf. It’s a stark contrast to Charles’ entry point. He decided to pursue the TOUR after serving three years in the United States Air Force. In those days, two letters from golf professionals were required just to enter the Monday qualifiers, verifying a player’s competitive ability. Evidence of financial backing was also needed. Charles rounded up $6,000 of support and hit the road, chasing his dream.
He reflected on those early years as he bounced between Parker and Pierceson during that Sunday afternoon at Texas Rangers Golf Club. He and his wife Lynette – his high school sweetheart and the twins’ grandmother – would share observations when they crossed paths at various holes’ intersections.
The most important memories now involve his grandchildren. The weekend of the Veritex was his first time watching them compete in person as professional golfers. He was unsure if he’d be able to attend, but after both made the cut, he and Lynette made the 2.5-hour drive from Abilene to surprise them for the weekend.
When Kyle and Charles lend advice to the twins – it’s a long career, don’t get high or too low – Pierceson and Parker know it comes from a place of experience. Charles illustrated his longevity with a single anecdote: he played the Bob Hope Classic, now known as The American Express, 20 times from 1964 to 1985, staying in the same budget hotel each time. By the time he made his final start in 1985, the hotel cost more for a single night than it did for the entire week in his debut.
Charles’ perspective remains fresh as his grandchildren navigate the fickle journey of professional golf. Sometimes the impact comes in broader strokes.
Last summer on PGA TOUR Canada, Parker spent some time on the practice green with one of his grandfather’s old Bulls Eye putters from the 1970s. He had seen “a thousand” such putters in Charles’ closet through the years, he laughed. As he putted, he joked that he could feel the putter head moving – “I feel like I’m going to break it if I lean on it,” he quipped. That fragile club revealed the secret to his grandfather’s success, however.
"Everything was based on feel," Parker said.
Parker Coody putts with grandfather’s Bulls Eye
When did he and his brother realize their family’s unique connection to the game? He thought back to the 2006 Par 3 Contest at the Masters, when Pierceson and Parker served as co-caddies. It marked Charles’ 40th Masters start and his farewell to Augusta National as a competitor. They were just 6 years old, years away from playing professional golf, but it was an experience he wanted to share with them.
“As soon as we walk out there, I’m just thinking that he’s this older guy that played professional golf,” Parker remembered. “I didn’t really understand what the Masters was at the time and what he meant to professional golf, and all of a sudden, people are calling his name, and this is just, this is my granddad."
In 2008, having retired from official competition, Charles made a hole-in-one during the Par 3 Contest. The twins were on the scene (almost).
"Pierceson and I were digging in a cooler, and he made a hole-in-one, and we didn't see it," Parker said. "We were supposed to be out there caddying.”
The Coody twins served as co-caddies for their grandpa Charles at the 2006 Par 3 Contest. (Courtesy of Coody family)
Charles didn’t mind. He doesn’t mind. As long as they enjoy their chosen journey.
“It’s just fun watching them chase their dream,” Charles said. “This is something that they’ve wanted to do since probably three or four years after they started playing golf; they’ve always thought about playing the PGA TOUR.”
Fast forward a few weeks and Parker earned the final spot in the Korn Ferry Tour’s HomeTown Lenders Championship in Huntsville, Alabama, earning his spot with less than a point to spare. Every shot that his grandfather had seen was of the utmost importance. That par-save on the eighth hole Sunday, where he punched out from trouble and saved par with a wedge? It very much mattered.
Charles nodded in approval afterward, leaning on his 4-wood for support and his TOUR membership badge draped around his neck. He still pays his dues, every year. He’d love his grandsons to join him among the TOUR’s ranks.
“As long as it’s what they both want, then I’m all for it,” he said. “… Besides their mother and father and probably some of our family, I’m the biggest fan that they’ve got.”
Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.