Scott Parel follows unusual path to PGA Champions success

Augustan to compete in Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf
Scott Parel helps his pro-am partner line up a putt at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic, April 24, 2024, at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth.

Credit: David King

Credit: David King

Scott Parel helps his pro-am partner line up a putt at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic, April 24, 2024, at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth.

Mary Parel has the perfect description of her husband, PGA Tour Champions professional Scott Parel.

“He’s a 20-year overnight sensation,” she tells people.

Parel, 58, who is in the field for this week’s Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, has followed a non-traditional career path. He’s gone from computer programmer and database administrator to four-time winner with nearly $8 million in career earnings on PGA Tour Champions.

“Guys in pro-ams, they all do a quick Google search on me because they probably haven’t heard my name,” Parel said. “They’re like, ‘Wow, you didn’t turn pro until you were 31?’ and you give them that perspective, and it’s a cool story for the average guy. It’s a story that people can relate to.”

The 11th Mitsubishi Electric Class will be conducted Friday through Sunday. The defending champion in Stephen Ames.

Parel grew up in Augusta and attended the University of Georgia, but not as a golfer. He said his game wasn’t good enough to make the team, and he was more interested in pursuing a degree in computer science. He finished school, found a job, got married and had a couple of children. He played golf on the weekend and competed when he got a chance.

“Honestly, I’d never really had any inkling of thinking about being a professional until I was probably like 30 years old and started played a lot of good amateur golf,” Parel said.

One year he entered the final round of the Georgia Amateur before fading on Sunday. He reached the Round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur Championship. He won a bunch of highly competitive events in the Augusta area and wound up being named Player of the Year.

“I was shooting some really good scores, and some guys at my club were like, ‘Hey, you ever think of turning pro?” he said. “By this time I’m married, I’ve got two kids, my wife’s not working because I’ve a pretty good job. I told them, ‘That’s crazy. I can’t quit a job without a steady paycheck.’ And they said they’d pay for me to go to Q-School.”

He got through the first round of Q-School, but went back to work after failing in the second round.

“But after I did that, I started evaluating my golf versus guys who were doing it all the time,” Parel said. “Basically, I was writing code 60 hours a week and playing golf on the weekend, and I hung in with them. I got to where I was like, ‘You know what, maybe I need to think about giving this a shot.”

Knowing the disruption it would create on his family, Parel approached his wife with the idea of pursuing his golf dream. He wanted her 100% approval before moving forward with the plan.

“She said, ‘You’ve got to do it. I don’t want you to turn 50 and have been working for 25 years in a cubicle and then you think what would have happened if I’d done this,’” Parel said. “She said, you’ve got to do this and we’ll figure out a way to make it work. She’s basically the one that pushed me out there and said, ‘Give it a shot.’”

It turned out to be a good call – and the beginning of his rise as a 20-year overnight sensation.

It wasn’t easy. He played the dog-eat-dog mini-tour circuits for years before a breakthrough in 2002. He qualified for the U.S. Open that year, a success that paved the way for him to earn limited status on the (now Korn Ferry) Tour. He continued to grind away and won an event in Wichita, Kansas, as a 48-year-old in 2013. From there it was waiting until his 50th birthday and a chance to play on the PGA Tour Champions circuit.

He had no status as a rookie in 2016 but was able to Monday qualify for six consecutive weeks – an incredibly difficult model for success – and realize he belonged. He’ll always remember Bernard Langer recognizing him on the putting green, congratulating him on being back and offering encouragement.

“When I first got out here I was a little intimidated,” he said. “I’m warming up on the range next to Freddie Couples, guys I’ve watched on television forever. But what I found out pretty quickly is that when they play with you and they realize you can play, they don’t have a problem with you being out here. That’s kind of how it works.”

Parel ended up playing 15 events that year and finished 40th on the Schwab Cup list, earning his much-needed status. Today he’s played 189 events, missed the cut only twice, and produced four wins. He’s won $7.8 million on the Champions Tour.

Parel is trying to regain his form this season after a couple of health-related issues cost him fully exempt status. In 2024 he tied for fifth in the season opener and last week tied for 26th at the Invited Celebrity Classic in Dallas. He sees progress, particularly on the greens.

“It’s coming around,” he said. “I was playing OK to start, then I struggled a little bit and the last few weeks, I’ve felt like I’m pretty close.”

Nothing would please him more than to have success at Sugarloaf, where lost in a playoff to Steve Flesch in 2018.

“Beyond the majors, this is the No. 1 tournament I’d like to win,” Parel said. “I have more people from home, friends and family that will be out here than I normally do. You obviously want to do well in front of them.”