Mark Parson said he had played in the Haverford Philadelphia PGA Classic "seven or eight times" before Tuesday, usually competing in the morning wave of contestants and riding a cart, and "never played well."
So he switched things around on a hot, muggy day at Sunnybrook Golf Club, teeing off in the last group of the day, accompanied by a caddie. The result was eight birdies in a round of 5-under-par 67 that earned him the $100,000 first-prize check – largest of any PGA of America section in the country.
Parson, 48, in his second season as a teaching pro at Harbor Pines Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., had a simple strategy for his trek around the 6,893-yard Plymouth Meeting layout. He focused solely on his game and kept the lucrative winner's prize out of his head as long as possible with the help of his caddie, Mike Connolly, a yoga instructor.
"I never looked at the scoreboard once," Parson said. "I made Mike keep the score. I never told any of the markers what my scores were. I never knew how the tournament was going. I did know before I teed off that 3-under was low, but I just played my game the whole day."
Brett Melton of Radley Run and Corey McAlarney of Squires shot the low rounds of the morning wave, 69, and were joined at that number by Brian Bergstol of Shawnee in the afternoon. Meanwhile, Parson started hot, with four birdies in his first eight holes, before bogeys at 9 and 10 dropped him to 2 under.
He still was 2 under on the 14th tee when he said to Connolly, " 'The way to really win this is to birdie out,' and he says, 'You can't do that unless you birdie this hole now.' And I birdied 14."
Two more birdies followed, a 2-putt at the par-5 16th and a 30-foot bomb with 3 ½ feet of break at the par-3 17th. But he still had no idea where he stood and made what he called "the world's most nervous par" on 18, finishing with a 4-foot putt.
"I don't want to tell you how scared I was on that last putt," he said. "I didn't know what the score was. I didn't know who the winner was. I didn't know anything and I tried to keep it that way."
Parson, whose late father, Donald, played on the PGA Tour, is originally from Ludlow, Mass., lives in Northfield, N.J., and has been a PGA professional for more than 20 years, 10 in the Philadelphia Section. He has won "a few thousand dollars" in tournaments in the Connecticut and Met (New York) sections of the PGA but nothing as mind-boggling as $100,000.
With a daughter at Stockton University and a son about to enter the University of Oregon, the timing couldn't have been better.
"This is a lot of help, I can tell you that," he said.
Mark Parson, Harbor Pines 33-34—67
Brett Melton, Radley Run 35-34—69
Corey McAlarney, Squires 34-35—69
Brian Bergstol, Shawnee 35-34—69
Michael Little, Lookaway 33-37—70
Andrew Turner, Sunnybrook 33-37—70
Billy Stewart, ACE Club 34-36—70
Jason Calhoun, Penn 34-36—70
Zac Oakley, Waynesborough 33-37—70
George Forster, Radnor Valley 36-35—71
Dave Quinn, Philmont 36-35—71
Stu Ingraham, M-Golf 33-38—71
Mike Tobiason, Deerfield 36-35—71
Eric Kennedy, Overbrook 37-35—72
Jamie Komancheck, RiverCrest 36-36—72
Scott Reilly, Philadelphia Country 38-34—72
Stephen Sieracki, Indian Valley 33-39—72
Mike Moses, Concord 36-37–73
John Pillar, Woodloch Springs 37-36—73
Mike Grabosky, Heidelberg 35-38—73
Greg Farrow, Deerwood 32-41—73
Tony Perla, LedgeRock 36-37—73
Dean Halterman, Galloway National 36-37—73
Jeff Herb, Waynesborough 39-34—73
Eric McNamee, Golf Galaxy – Montgomery 36-37—73
Steve Swartz, Out Door 38-35—73
Tom Carpus, PGA Tour 36-37—73