Scott Parel’s father floored by Fred Couples' compliment
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AKRON, OH - AUGUST 16: Scott Parel in action during the final round of the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship at Firestone Country Club on August 16, 2020 in Akron, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour
Scott Parel’s father couldn’t believe his eyes.
Scott Parel couldn’t believe his either.
Parel, 55, received a text from his 77-year-old dad on the eve of the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship last week. The proud papa had just read on PGATOUR.COM that Fred Couples -- Hall of Famer Fred Couples, Masters winner Fred Couples, the guy nicknamed “Boom Boom,” 15-time PGA TOUR winner Fred Couples, he of the long, syrupy swing -- had said that he would like to drive the ball like … Scott Parel.
“I thought maybe my dad had lost it somehow,” Parel said Tuesday as her prepared for the Charles Schwab Series at Bass Pro Shops Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Missouri, which runs Wednesday through Friday. “I looked to make sure he was not off his rocker.”
His father still had all of his faculties. Couples had, in fact, told reporters gathered for a news conference at the SENIOR PLAYERS that if he could borrow aspects from his fellow PGA TOUR Champions competitors’ games, he’d like to get off the tee like the longtime Georgia resident.
“If you had said that to me 15 or 20 years ago, I’d have said you were on some kind of medication that you needed to get checked,” said Parel, who has ranked in the top 10 in driving distance for each of the past four full seasons. “That was surprising to read. But you know, when I’ve played with Fred I’ve probably driven it pretty well.”
Parel, who ranks 13th in total driving, finished second to Jerry Kelly at the SENIOR PLAYERS in Akron, Ohio. It propelled him to the top of the Charles Schwab Cup standings as the Champions Tour begins a two-week stint at Johnny Morris’ Top of the Rock resort in the Ozarks. Through seven starts Parel has a win (pre-pandemic stoppage at the Chubb Classic), a solo second and a T3. Couples sits in seventh, though he has played in only five events.
Parel graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in computer science. He didn’t play golf for the Bulldogs, instead devoting himself to his studies. He didn’t turn pro until he was 31 and never played regularly on the PGA TOUR. He’s one of those rare players, though, who had enough game when he turned 50 not only to make it onto PGA TOUR Champions but become a multi-time winner and a serious threat any time he tees it up.
“Are there times when I was, early on, thinking maybe I shouldn't be doing this? Yes,” Parel said. “I think a lot of guys are that way, maybe not to the point that I got, but I think a lot of guys consider like, because it's a grind and if things aren't going well, it's tough to be away from your family and to justify all that time away to barely scrape out a living on mini tours and smaller tours.
“So to come where I've come now in the last four or five years, it's just really a blessing. I can't really ‑‑ it doesn't seem real sometimes when I look at guys that I'm playing with and how I'm doing some weeks. I've definitely gotten better as a golfer as I've gotten older. Woody Austin said to me last week, ‘Where were you when I was out on the Tour?’ He was like, ‘How were you not out there with us?’ I just wasn't the golfer. I mean, if I was, I would have been out there. I matured. As I got older, I matured probably more mentally than anything.
It takes time to go from struggling mini-tour player to staring down Couples, Langer, Stricker and the like. But Parel is kind of this perfect mix of humble everyman and quiet assassin. Just follow along with what he said about his first-round grouping on Wednesday, which coincidentally includes Couples as well as Vijay Singh.
“Yeah, I mean, you've got Masters winners, major winners, guys who were No. 1 in the world and then you've got a guy who didn't ever play out there,” Parel said. “Yeah, it doesn't ‑‑ it doesn't seem real sometimes.
“But then again when you get on the first tee, it's just golf, right? We're all trying to do the same thing, we're all trying to get the ball in the hole as fast as we can. The ball doesn't know how old you are or what your name is, right, and the golf course doesn't either. You know, you just play the game. … Early on I probably would have ‑‑ you know, was a little more intimidated than I would be now just because I feel like I'm good enough to play with these guys. Am I going to beat them every time? No, but I'm not going to embarrass myself hopefully.”
So Couples will get an up-close look at Parel’s driving, and Parel’s dad will follow along on TV and his computer.
“He still plays a fair amount of golf,” Parel said. “He doesn't get around as good as he'd like to so he can't really come out to any of the tournaments. He would come to Birmingham and Atlanta being that it's close, but Atlanta is an impossible course to walk for the fans almost. It's just something he can't do. So he is constantly on that internet looking at everything. He's been very encouraging.
“And my dad introduced me to the game, so I think it means a lot to him. I know he's proud and I know that he enjoys seeing me play against these guys. For him to read that Fred Couples thinks he wants to drive the ball like me, I'm sure at first he thought that had to be a mistake somewhere, but yeah, he's ‑‑ I don't want to say he's living vicariously through me, but I think he really ‑‑ he looks forward to these tournaments. I think that he likes to see good, bad or otherwise. When I do well, obviously he's very proud and happy, and when I struggle, he wants to give advice, just like all dads do. It's been a blessing to be able to be out here and for him to enjoy it. I think he enjoys it as much as I do.”