Spot in ma­jors at stake in Mid-Am fi­nal

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FANS EXTRA - By Stan Awtrey

You might or­di­nar­ily find a wedding caterer and a fire­fighter duk­ing it out for your lo­cal golf club cham­pi­onship.

To­day, golfers with those day jobs will play for an in­vi­ta­tion to the Mas­ters and the U.S. Open.

Matt Parziale, 30, who works for the Brock­ton (Mass.) Fire De­part­ment, will meet Josh Ni­chols, 26, a wedding caterer from Kern­ersville, N.C., in the fi­nal of the U.S. Mid-Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship at the Cap­i­tal City Club’s Crabap­ple Course in Mil­ton.

The win­ner of the 36-hole match can ex­pect an in­vi­ta­tion to play in the Mas­ters in April and the U.S. Open in June, a car­rot that was an­nounced last month.

“This is the one all the mi­dams want,” Parziale said. “I’m ex­cited to be here, and I’m ex­cited for the op­por­tu­nity.”

Ni­chols said, “It would be the big­gest thing I could ever imag­ine with golf. There’s noth­ing big­ger than the U.S. Open, right?”

The U.S. Mid-Am is lim­ited to play­ers 25 and older.

Parziale beat Dan Sul­li­van of Pasadena, Calif., 5 and 4 in the semi­fi­nal. Ni­chols de­feated Mark Har­rell of Look­out Moun­tain 1 up in the other match to elim­i­nate the fi­nal Ge­or­gian in the field.

Parziale be­gan his day by de­feat­ing stroke-play medal­ist Brad­ford Til­ley of Eas­ton, Conn., in 20 holes in the quar­ter­fi­nal. Til­ley was 5-up with eight holes to play when Parziale won five of the next seven holes and missed a birdie putt for the win at 18. He won with a par on the sec­ond ex­tra hole.

The mo­men­tum car­ried over into his semi­fi­nal match. He won three of the first holes against Sul­li­van and closed the match on No. 14.

“I was a lit­tle more re­laxed start­ing,” Parziale said. “But even down the stretch, you don’t want the same thing to hap­pen that hap­pened to Brad this morn­ing. I just tried to stay in and, thank­fully, it worked out.”

Parziale works at the same fire sta­tion as his fa­ther, Vic. He is a for­mer pro­fes­sional who com­pleted on the mini­tours and made three stabs at PGA Tour qualifying school be­fore trad­ing in his clubs for a fire hose.

“I’d rather play in these (tour­na­ments) than work­ing,” Parziale said. “But I love my job. I en­joy it. Great group of guys. It al­lows me to do this. This is what I love.”

Nei­ther Har­rell, who played at Alabama, nor Ni­chols, who played at Ap­palachian State, had a bo­gey dur­ing their round. Nei­ther led by more than one hole.

Ni­chols squared his match with Har­rell af­ter mak­ing birdie on No. 12, then went 1-up when he stuck his tee shot to within 2 feet at the par-3 13th. Har­rell made a 12-foot birdie on the 17th hole to tie the match.

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