Matt Parziale, a 30-year-old firefighter from Brockton, won the US Mid-Amateur Championship Friday at Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course in Atlanta, defeating Josh Nichols of Kernersville, N.C, 8 and 6, in the 36-hole final. And like a couple of other Brockton sports stars — Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler — he did it by knockout. The score tied the third-largest winning margin in a 36-hole final in championship history.
There are some big rewards beyond the Mid-Am trophy. The victory gives Parziale, who plays out of Thorny Lea Golf Club, a spot at the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills, as well as a spot in the Masters. The USGA only announced the US Open full exemption for the Mid-Am winner last week.
“That was a great announcement they had [last] Thursday night,” Parziale told the USGA’s David Shefter. “At the time, I didn’t know I would be the one going, but I’m very fortunate to have that opportunity now. I’m very excited for the upcoming year.”
Parziale, who had never won a match in three previous US Mid-Am appearances, is the first Massachusetts male golfer to win the Mid-Am. He was 5 down with eight to play in the quarterfinals Thursday, but came back to defeat Bradford Tilley, the top seed and medalist from stroke play, in 20 holes. He beat Dan Sullivan, 5 and 4, in the semifinals. In the final, he made nine birdies through his first 19 holes and 10 birdies overall.
His 7-under-par 63 in the morning 18 – with the usual match-play concessions – was the best score in a US Mid-Amateur final since the USGA switched the format to 36 holes in 2001.
“I didn’t even know I shot 63 until someone texted me after,” Parziale, 8 under for the match, said to Shefter. “I was really just trying to take it one hole at a time. I know that’s what everyone says, but that’s what I did today.”
Parziale spent three years on golf’s minor league circuit before returning home to Brockton to become a firefighter like his father. His firefighting schedule — one day on, two days off, one on, then four off, has allowed him to continue to play in golf tournaments. His persistence paid off in a big way this week. His father, Vic, was the first one to get an embrace after Parziale closed out the match on the 12th hole. There were friends from Boston, too.
“I knew my best friend Greg [Chalas] was driving from [Indianapolis] and he was meeting up with my fiancé. I didn’t know about the other guys,” Parziale said. “They just kept showing up at different times. Crazy friends. That means a lot to keep seeing new faces show up. There was a lot of support, and it was great to have them here.”