CRAIG PARRY begins a new chapter of his celebrated golfing career this year with his debut season on the lucrative US Champions Tour.
The popular Aussie golfer turned 50 in January and will play his first tournament on the senior circuit this week at the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Florida.
Parry has already had a win, of sorts, on the tour when he was belatedly told late last year he didn’t have to travel to the US and compete on the very challenging champions qualifying school.
“I was very excited to not have to go to the school,” said a relieved Parry at the time. He had already had his bags packed and accommodation booked.
“I was always told that I had to go to the school. But having the two wins [on the US PGA TOUR], it puts me in a different category to the guys that have only won once.”
Parry had a long career on the TOUR, playing 306 events and amassing prizemoney of $US8.48 million.
His first win was at the 2002 NEC Invitational, a World Golf Championships when he beat a top-class field that included Tiger Woods in his prime.
The second was at the 2004 Ford Championship when he famously holed a 6-iron from 161 metres to beat Scott Verplank in a playoff at Doral in Miami.
The 2007 Australian Open winner (23 victories overall) is looking forward to not only the new golfing challenge but also the travel.
“It’s obviously a good time to be back out on tour and have the opportunity to go and play tournament golf again, especially with people your own age,” Parry said this week.
“You know, you’re not playing against Jordan, Adam, Rory, Jason Day. I mean, it’s a different player that I’m playing against.
“They’re going to hit it the same distance I hit it, same clubs into the green. I think it’s going to be good. And it’s a bit more relaxed, the tour, as well.
“Having no cut obviously makes it that way and that’s going to be nice not having to worry about a Friday afternoon, having to make a putt on the last green to get through for the weekend. I mean, that’s going to be really good.”
“Bloody good golf”
But Parry is under no illusion about what is required playing against some of golf’s all time greats.
“You’ve still got to be able to play very well. I’m sure the winning scores and for top 10 you’ve got to play bloody good golf,” he said previously.
Parry is also planning to do some travel with wife Jenny during the off weeks.
“I turned Pro in 1985 so I had that many years out on the tour playing tournament golf. I really didn’t miss it, especially the travel,” he said.
“Now I’m okay to travel. The kids have gone through school, my wife and I can come away and have a few cruises.
“We might get on Celebrity Cruises occasionally. I did the cruise back from Honolulu last year. Honolulu back to Australia, that was 17 days. That was unbelievable on the Royal Caribbean.”
Parry has resigned with long time sponsor Schweppes for another two years, which will bring it up to 25 years. He is also continuing his 16 year long relationship with Callaway Golf as his equipment supplier.
Now all we need to do is sit back and watch the man they call Popeye in action – in fields that this year will also include fellow newbies – and two-time Major champions John Daly and José María Olazábal.
As Parry begins his Champions Tour career, fellow Aussie Peter Senior (who is not playing this week) will be playing his seventh and last season [See: Peter Senior’s Swan Song Season]
Allianz Championship TV Times and Leaderboard
1st Round Live Saturday 3am – 6am
2nd Round Sunday 10am – 12pm
Final Round Monday 10am- 12pm; 4.30pm – 6.30pm.Allianz Championship Leaderboard
Craig Parry holes out on the 18th at Doral: Video