Mid-Amateur champ and firefighter Matt Parziale set to tee it up
The professions of non-collegiate amateurs who have played in the Masters Tournament mainly run along the lines of those in the business world.
No records have been kept of the jobs the amateurs have held, but for those who will return to the working world after playing in the Masters, no one can remember a full-time firefighter teeing it up in the Masters.
Until this year.
Matt Parziale has worked for the Brockton (Mass.) Fire Department for the past five years, now on ladder 1.
“I would say he’s the only one (firefighter to play in the Masters),” said Parziale’s father Vic.
Parziale, 30, doesn’t like to talk about any of the harrowing experiences he’s had as a firefighter. He will say one of the highlights of his career came in 2015 when he fought a fire with his father, who was the captain of Brockton’s ladder 1 for many years and retired three months ago. The father and son always worked in different groups, but on this day Matt was taking someone’s place in his dad’s group when the fire call came in.
“I got to fight a fire with my dad,” Matt said. “That’s probably the one thing I wanted to do before he retired and I was fortunate to do that. We had a great time doing it together.”
“It was a great experience,” said Vic Parziale, who was able to see his son in action for the first time. “He was a good worker.”
Matt Parziale said the pressure of fighting a fire and that of coming down the stretch with a golf tournament on the line are not the same.
“When you’re fighting a fire, it’s chaos, uncontrolled, nothing is the same and you’re part of a team you rely on,” he said. “Playing a tournament you’re out there by yourself and it’s controlled. It’s you. Two separate things. I love doing both and I’m very fortunate to be able to do both.”
Vic Parziale said there is a correlation - but only when a tournament round and a fire fight are successful.
“There’s the satisfaction of completing something and getting it done,” he said.
Parziale has been swamped with media requests and attention since he qualified by winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur in October. In mid-March, he was given a Masters sendoff at his home club, Thorny Lea Golf Club, in Brockton. More than 200 people turned out.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” he said of the attention. “I’ve embraced it and had fun with it. It’s been a lot. A lot media requests and all that. I’ve enjoyed the whole process.”
“He’s been calm; he’s handled it a lot better than I could have,” said his father.
Vic Parziale said there are 225 firefighters at the Brockton Fire Department, but Vic Parziale says only 16 of them play golf. For that reason, Matt Parziale said there hasn’t been much talk among his fellow workers about him playing in the Masters.
“I think there are guys who are interested and those who just aren’t,” Matt Parziale said. “In the golf world, we think everybody knows about golf but that’s not the case. People have other interests in life so there are a lot of interests in that career.”
Parziale’s father caddies for him in state and major events, and will be on the bag in the Masters.
“It’s going to be pretty cool, being out there with him inside the ropes,” Vic Parziale said. “It’s going to be a great experience with my son out there. I never thought I’d see the place and now I’m caddying in the tournament.”
He also got a chance to play Augusta National with his son during a visit in mid-March.
It was the fourth trip to Augusta National that Parziale had taken in an effort to learn the course.
“The biggest thing is learning the spots around the greens where you can’t play from,” Matt said. “Because there are some spots you can’t play from. I’ve had a great (Augusta National) caddie, he’s been awesome. He’s shown me all the areas. It’s great to just take it all in. I’ve really enjoyed the time preparing, getting ready for it.”
The timing of Parziale’s Mid-Amateur victory and Masters appearance have been uncanny for a number of reasons, including the fact Parziale’s idol, Tiger Woods, is healthy and playing for the first time since 2015.
Parziale didn’t know Woods, but he received a congratulatory letter from the 14-time major champion after he won the Mid-Amateur.
“I thought it was incredible,” Parziale said.
Then, in February, Parziale was invited by fellow Massachusetts native and friend James Driscoll, a Web.com Tour player the previous three years, to play at Medalist Club, his home course in Hobe Sound, Fla. It also happens to be where Woods often plays and he was there that day.
“I said hello to him and he was great to talk to. He was kind. We talked for three or four minutes.”
Did he try to set up a practice round with the four-time Masters champion?
“I thought I’d reach out up there,” Parziale said. “He’s a busy guy. I understand all the requests he gets. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, I understand it.”
Another reason why it was a good year to win the Mid-Amateur was because for the first time, the champion earned an exemption into the U.S. Open, which will be played in June at Shinnecock Hills. The Mid-Am victory always earns the winner a spot in the U.S. Amateur, which is at Pebble Beach this year.
“I just live to play competitive golf and I love to prepare,” Parziale said. “I’m very fortunate to be able to prepare for one of the biggest - or the biggest - tournament in the world (the Masters) and compete against the best players in the world. That’s what I’m looking forward to. I’m fortunate to be able to do that twice this year.
"It’s been a lot of fun these last few months, preparing and playing in events I don’t normally play in or wouldn’t play. And taking trips I normally wouldn’t take. It’s what I love to do.”
In preparation for the Masters, Parziale took a leave of absence from the fire department starting in late October.
“I’ve been playing well,” he said. “I put some work in last year. I made some more time to work on my game and I really benefited from that. Making it one of the best weeks of my life at the Mid-Am.”
At the Mid-Amateur, which was played at Atlanta’s Capital City Golf Club, Parziale had 10 birdies in 30 holes of the scheduled 36-hole final, winning 8 and 6 over Josh Nichols.
“I’ve worked hard this past year,” Matt Parziale said. “But it’s golf. You can work hard and play bad. And not work hard and play good. I was playing a lot of competitive rounds going in. I put a lot of work just for this reason, to be more competitive on the national level. It’s a long way. Thirty-six holes every day. You get done and it starts over. It takes a lot out of you. But I pretty proud I was able to show up and play well every day.”