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Apr052018

Firefighter who played competitive golf because of Tiger Woods practices with his idol

Jamie Squire/Getty Images(AUGUSTA, Ga.) -- Whether he wins or loses at this year's Masters, firefighter Matt Parziale can return to his Massachusetts town with one thing clearly checked off his list: playing golf with his idol Tiger Woods.

On Monday, Parziale, the 2018 Mid-Amateur golf champion, said during a news conference that he wasn't sure he'd get to meet Woods, what with all the fanfare surrounding the return of the sports icon.

This year marks the first time in three years that Woods, a four-time Master winner, is vying for another green jacket.

But, on Wednesday, one day before the start of the Masters, there was Parziale at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, practicing alongside Woods.

In October, Parziale, 30, of Brockton, Massachusetts, won the 2017 US Mid-Amateur Championship in Atlanta. He also earned a spot at the US Open in June. It was a huge victory for the firefighter, who'd golfed professionally before deciding to return to amateur status.

Parziale said that after his win in October, Woods sent him a letter, congratulating him. Parziale said he'd grown up watching Woods and had played competitive golf because of him.

Six weeks ago, Parziale had the chance to thank Woods for the letter.

After his US Mid-Amateur win, Parziale, who'd followed in the footsteps of his father and become a firefighter, took a leave of absence from the department to prepare for the Masters.

"I've always wanted to play golf at the highest level possible," he said Monday. "And, that's just kind of what's kept me going."

With his father, Vic Parziale, as his caddy, Parziale said he had little to no expectations going into the Masters, besides to do his best.

"It's incredible. ... I put a lot of work in to get here," he said.

Parziale, a member of Ladder Company 1 for the Brockton, Massachusetts, Fire Department, said that he'd gotten support from firefighters and others from all across America.

"I make all decisions with no regrets. I don't look back. ... I enjoy where I am," he said. "I'm very fortunate enough to be able to do two things that I love doing -- play competitive golf and then have a career that I really do enjoy."

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