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Wedding caterer versus firefighter in U.S. Mid-Am final

You might ordinarily find a wedding caterer and a firefighter duking it out for your local golf club championship. 

On Friday, golfers with those day jobs will play for an invitation to the Masters and the U.S. Open.

Matt Parziale, 30, who works for the Brockton (Mass.) Fire Department, will meet Josh Nichols, 26, a wedding caterer from Kernersville, N.C., in the final of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course in Milton. 

The winner of the 36-hole match can expect an invitation to play in the Masters in April and the U.S. Open in June, a carrot that was announced last month.

“This is the one all the mid-ams want,” Parziale said. “I’m excited to be here, and I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Nichols said, “It would be the biggest thing I could ever imagine with golf. There’s nothing bigger than the U.S. Open, right?”

The U.S. Mid-Am is limited to players 25 and older. 

Parziale beat Dan Sullivan of Pasadena, Calif., 5 and 4 in the semifinal. Nichols defeated Mark Harrell of Lookout Mountain 1 up in the other match to eliminate the final Georgian in the field.  

Parziale began his day by defeating stroke-play medalist Bradford Tilley of Easton, Conn., in 20 holes in the quarterfinal. Tilley was 5-up with eight holes to play when Parziale won five of the next seven holes and missed a birdie putt for the win at 18. He won with a par on the second extra hole. 

The momentum carried over into his semifinal match. He won three of the first holes against Sullivan and closed the match on No. 14.

“I was a little more relaxed starting,” Parziale said. “But even down the stretch, you don’t want the same thing to happen that happened to Brad this morning. I just tried to stay in and, thankfully, it worked out.”

Parziale works at the same fire station as his father, Vic. He is a former professional who completed on the mini-tours and made three stabs at PGA Tour qualifying school before trading in his clubs for a fire hose. 

“I’d rather play in these (tournaments) than working,” Parziale said. “But I love my job. I enjoy it. Great group of guys. It allows me to do this. This is what I love.”

Parziale regained his amateur status in 2013 and is playing in the U.S. Mid-Am for the fourth time. He was co-medalist at the 2015 championship, but had never advanced past the quarterfinals.

Neither Harrell, who played at Alabama, nor Nichols, who played at Appalachian State, had a bogey during their round. Neither led by more than one hole.

Nichols squared his match with Harrell after making birdie on No. 12, then went 1-up when he stuck his tee shot to within a two feet at the par-3 13th. Harrell made a 12-foot birdie on the 17th hole to tie the match.

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