Scott Parel tried to remain in his normal routine last week, but as the 37-year-old golf professional worked on his swing Thursday at the West Lake Country Club driving range, he realized the words "normal" and "routine" had been temporarily deleted from his vocabulary.
His phone has been ringing constantly - well-wishers keep calling, and so do television stations, asking for interviews.
Why all the fuss?
Parel has played in events on the Buy.com and Hooters tours, and he recently won a tournament on the Stewart & Stewart Tour, where he regularly competes.
He also has fired a course-record 61 at West Lake, his home tract.
But those achievements don't explain the sudden scrutiny on this self-described "journeyman."
The real reason why Parel is in such demand is because of his journey this week to Farmingdale, New York, where he will be among 156 competitors teeing it up in the 102nd United States Open Championship.
"It's been great," Parel said of the reaction he's received after advancing through local and sectional qualifying to earn his first trip to a U.S. Open.
"Everyone around here has been very happy for me, and wishing me luck. I couldn't ask for a better response."
The Augusta native shot a 70 in local qualifying at Griffin Country Club, where he survived a six-man playoff for five spots and moved on to sectional play.
Parel had no trouble at the 36-hole sectionals. He fired rounds of 66-66 at Settindown Creek Golf Club to win the sectional event by seven shots and secure a spot in the U.S. Open field.
Jack Parel will caddy for his son this week at Bethpage State Park's Black Course. Scott's wife, Mary, children Kayla and Cory, and other family members will be in the gallery.
The Parel fan club won't be alone behind the ropes.
"It's easy to play on Wednesdays and Fridays with your buddies," Scott said of the difference between a causal round of golf and competing in front of large crowds at a major championship.
"I know I've got the scores in me. It's a matter of keeping it one shot at a time and to think about playing a golf course, not think about it being a U.S. Open."
Parel refuses to get caught up in the U.S. Open hoopla - he says winning isn't on his mind, and neither is a top 16 finish, which would earn an invitation to the 2003 Masters Tournament.
"My goal, really, is to just try to have a good time, play as well as I can and hopefully that will be good enough to make the cut," he said. "That's a pretty good goal for somebody playing in their first U.S. Open."
Bethpage Black is quite a venue to make a debut. It's the longest course in U.S. Open history, but that fact doesn't faze Parel, who possesses a good mix of power and control.
"In my pro career, I think I've played the hardest courses the best," he said. "Obviously, I've never played anything as hard as the U.S. Open golf course, but I think it's an advantage when you know you don't have to make a ton of birdies. You can just play consistent and try to get the ball on the fairways and the greens; then you have a good chance of making par."
Parel's play has picked up in recent months. After listening to the tape titled "Putting out of Your Mind" by sports psychologist Bob Rotella, Parel has improved his putting technique.
"I played a lot of sports growing up - football, baseball, basketball - and have been a fairly good athlete. All those sports are reaction sports - see the basket, shoot it; catch the ball and throw it.
"I started treating golf the same way. Read your putt, pick out your target, and as you practice your strokes, look at the target. As soon as you bring your eyes back to the ball, just react to the target. That's basically what I've been doing."
While Bethpage Black is grueling from tee to green, the putting surfaces are tame by major championship standards. Parel thinks his accurate long game is up to the challenge, and since the greens are fair, low scores aren't out of the question.
"If there has been a weakness in my game, it has been on the greens," he said. "Having (putting) being the easiest part of Bethpage, comparatively speaking, maybe that will be an advantage for me."
Since Parel turned pro in 1996, his goal has been to make it to the PGA Tour. He plans to make another attempt to get his card this fall in the tour qualifying school.
Gaining U.S. Open experience could be the boost that eventually transforms him from mini-tour journeyman to PGA Tour member.
"There is a very fine line, it's just a matter of getting out there," he said. "This will be the first time I could ever really say, 'I'm out there.' At least for one week."
And what a week it will be.
As Parel practices at Bethpage, he'll rub elbows with established pros and major championship winners.
But when he tees off in the first round Thursday morning, Parel will try to think of the U.S. Open as just another golf tournament.
That's his normal routine.
"It's a great honor to be able to play with the top players in the world, and I've earned that opportunity. I'm looking forward to competing against them," he said. "I don't think they're too worried about Scott Parel, so I don't think I need to worry about Tiger Woods."
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