By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter
Scott Parel has spent much of his PGA Tour Champions career flying under the radar.
He didn’t arrive with a recognizable name from years on the PGA Tour, playing golf on the nation’s television sets. He took a long and winding road to success.
But he’s on top of the leaderboard after Friday’s first round of the Principal Charity Classic at the Wakonda Club.
Parel shot a 9-under-par 63 and takes a two-shot lead into the second round.
His name might not come with a buzz, but Parel’s golf game was elite on Friday. His 63 tied the lowest round shot in the tournament since it came to Wakonda in 2013. Billy Andrade shot a course-record 63 in the second round in 2016.
Chris DiMarco shot 65 and is alone in second. Andrade, who tied for second in 2016, is in third after a 66. Those three players are paired together for Saturday’s second round and will tee off at 12:55 p.m.
Parel said his lack of name recognition with the casual golf fan is not an issue.
“This tour is called the PGA Tour Champions for a reason,” Parel said. “I mean, most of the guys on this tour were champions on the PGA Tour. I’m just fortunate enough that they allow a few guys, that show they can play when they’re over 50, to be able to play with these guys. I’ve got no problem with nobody knowing who I am. As long as I play good golf, that’s all I care about.”
Parel was one of just three players to get around Wakonda without a bogey on his card. He needed just 23 putts, three fewer than anyone else in the field.
“I putted great today, I really did,” Parel said. “I think I only had one putt that I think I should have made that I didn’t make. I made just about everything.”
Parel earned full-time status on the PGA Tour Champions the hard way. He played in 222 events on the Web.com Tour, winning once in 2013.
Parel got through Monday qualifying eight times in 2016 on the PGA Tour Champions after turning 50. That fall, he tied for first in the qualifier to earn status on the tour in 2017.
He played well enough to maintain playing privileges in 2018, when he won twice at the Boeing Classic and Invesco QQQ Championship.
Parel also tied for second , behind Tom Lehman, at last year’s Principal Charity Classic. Parel shot 67-66 and was disappointed when the final round was postponed due to inclement weather.
“You never know what’s going to happen the last day, but I would have liked to have the chance,” Parel said. “Obviously I like the golf course, so I’m looking forward to two more days.”
DiMarco, in his second year on the PGA Tour Champions, had nine birdies and two bogeys on his card. The 65 was the lowest round of his PGA Tour Champions career by three shots.
After nearly holing a 60-foot eagle putt on the 16thgreen, he made a birdie putt from the same distance on 17.
“You’re not trying to make that,” DiMarco said. “You’re just trying to give yourself an easy putt for par. I just happened to have the right line and it went right in the middle.”
Andrade jumped up the leaderboard with birdies on his last four holes. In addition to his tie for second in 2016, Andrade finished in a tie for 10thin 2015.
“I really enjoy this place,” he said. “It reminds me a lot of where I grew up in Rhode Island, the tree-lined fairways, up and down, a few blind shots here and there, tricky greens. I feel comfortable here. A lot of guys feel comfortable here. That’s why they keep coming back. It’s a course that fits my eye, I enjoy it and I’ve had some success here, but I haven’t won yet. Hopefully I’ll have my chance on Sunday.”
Seven players start the second round in a tie for fourth after shooting 67s. That group includes former British Open champion Darren Clarke, who came to town at odds with his putter.
Clarke shot 67 with a putter he bought earlier in the week at Golf Galaxy in West Des Moines.
“None of them were really working last week at Oak Hill (Senior PGA Championship), so I decided I’d just go into the store and buy another one,” Clarke said.
Clarke said that Jon Ward, the store manager recognized him.
“He came up to me and he said, “What are you doing here?” Clarke said.
Mark Calcavecchia bought a putter from the same store and won the Principal title in 2015. He also wore bacon-designed pants in the final round.Asked if he’d wear bacon-inspired pants if it would help him in on Sunday, Clarke said, “I don’t know how far I’d go. I need to see them first.”