After all, Bobby Jones, the most accomplished amateur golfer the game has ever known, was the founder and co-designer of Augusta and co-founder of the Masters.
Many of the amateurs who have participated in The Masters have gone on to become professionals, but with the 82nd edition about to get underway Thursday, a different type of amateur is garnering attention.
Brockton firefighter Matt Parziale is there competing for the green jacket, having earned his invitation by winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur in October, and he’s making the most of his newfound fame.
“For some reason, everyone loves firefighters, so they want to hear the story,” Parziale, who works on Ladder 1 for the city of nearly 100,000 more known for boxing than golf, said shortly after arriving in Augusta. “I’ve had fun with it. I’ve done a lot of things I hadn’t before, so it’s been great.”
In an attempt to keep his competitive game sharp over the winter, Parziale took a leave of absence from work. He competed throughout the Southeastern U.S., Bermuda and in January picked up a top-10 finish at the South American Amateur in Buenos Aires.
His win at the Mid-Am also gave him a spot in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in June, the U.S Amateur at Pebble Beach in August and the Mid-Am in October.
Parziale said support inside the department has been strong.
“The chief (Michael Williams) has been awesome, the mayor (Bill Carpenter) has been so supportive,” he said. “The fire department and city have been great about taking a leave, and whatever I’ve needed they’ve helped out.”
Before Masters week got started on Monday, Parziale had been able to get on the course nearly 10 times.
“It’s getting better each time I play it. I don’t think TV does it justice,” he said. “It’s definitely getting firmer and faster each day.
“I’m just trying to take it all in. I’ve had a great local caddie – I’ve had him every day. He’s been here for a long time and he’s caddied a few Masters himself, so it was great to spend a few days with him. I’m just trying to see as much as possible, hit as many shots as possible and it’s been fun. You’ve got to be creative out there and I’ve always loved that part of the game. It tests you the whole way around.”
Parziale, 30, intended to stay on the Augusta grounds Monday night following the annual amateur dinner, but expects to spend the rest of tournament week with fiance Ali Hubbard and father Vic, who retired as a captain from the fire department after 32 years in November. His dad will be caddying for his son, who will also be cheered by a group of members from their home club of Thorny Lea in Brockton who rent the same house every year.
Could Parziale pull off a stunner and win?
The firefighter-turned-golfer said he does not have any expectations for the week, but Bovada lists him with 2,000-to-1 odds, the same as former champions Jose Maria Olazabal and Mike Weir.
Parizale will be paired with Weir and Brendan Steele when the trio tees off at 8:52 a.m. on Thursday
In the last 60 years, the two best opening rounds for an amateur have been posted by golfers with Massachusetts ties. Jim Hallet of South Yarmouth opened with a 4-under 68 in 1983 and had a share of the lead midway through the second round before finishing tied for 40th overall and being awarded the Silver Cup as the low amateur. James Driscoll of Brookline, whom Parziale played with a bit this past winter in Florida, matched the 68 in 2001.
Looking ahead, Parziale said that he will compete in a couple events in Florida before heading north for next month’s Mass. Golf Four-Ball, which he has teamed with Herbie Aikens to win the last two years.
He will not be able to participate in the Mass. Open because it is during the practice days of the U.S. Open, but will defend his titles in both the Mass. Amateur and Ouimet Tournament.