By day, Matt Parziale is a full-time firefighter in blue-collar Brockton, Mass. But, he also moonlights as a ultra-competitive golfer. When he isn’t battling fires for Ladder Company 1, the seventh-busiest ladder in the country, responding to car accidents or scrubbing toilets at the fire station, he’s on the golf course working on his game. And, it’s paid off tenfold. Parziale is one of six amateurs playing in the 2018 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.
The 30-year-old, who idolized Tiger Woods growing up, was paired with his hero and Fred Couples this week for a nine-hole practice round.
How exactly did he get here? He won the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship in October, which granted him a ticket to the tee box of the legendary tournament. Will he be playing on Sunday? Who knows. But, it’s been one helluva ride so far, starting with a letter from Woods after his big October win.
“He [Tiger Woods] sent me a letter after I had won (the Mid-Am). And that was incredible to receive, just because I had I grew up watching him,” Parziale told reporters at the beginning of the week. “And, I mean, I played competitive golf because I was able to watch him growing up.”
Parziale played golf in high school and then lead Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla. to a national championship in 2007. He turned pro, but struggled to make end’s meat, so he became a firefighter in 2013, which afforded him the opportunity to play in various amateur tournaments. Twenty-four shifts followed by two days off allow him plenty of time to practice, although he admits to not getting much sleep.
Parziale will have his father and retired Brockton Fire Department captain, Victor Parziale, on his bag this week, and a traveling support system with about 60 to 80 fans from Thorny Lea Golf Club, where he’s been a longtime member. As for his nerves? Sure, they’re riding high, but he knows that comes with the opportunity.
“Nervous isn’t bad. Nervous doesn’t mean you aren’t able to perform,” Parziale told the New York Times. “Nervous means you care. I enjoy being nervous. But it isn’t about that, it’s about being prepared. Firefighters or golfers. Everyone is just a player on the course. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you do. It’s just about performing that day and in that moment.“
Here’s a deeper look at Parziale and his pilgrimage to the Masters.
Parziale will play for the green jacket, but make no mistake. When this week is over, he’ll go back to wearing an even more important jacket, one with reflectors on it.