ATLANTA — The spectacular run in the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship of Kernersville, N.C., caterer Josh Nichols ended abruptly on Friday when red-hot firefighter Matt Parziale ate his lunch in the 36-hole final match.
Parziale, 30, from Brockton, Mass., birdied eight holes in the morning 18 to build a 6-up lead. Twelve holes into the afternoon round, he closed out Nichols 8 and 6 to earn a spot in next year’s U.S. Open Championship, scheduled for June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y.
The U.S. Open invitation was a perk announced last week after the USGA opted to award exemptions to the Mid-Amateur and U.S. Junior champions. The U.S. Mid-Amateur winner also receives an invitation to play in The Masters.
"At the time, I didn't know I would be the one going, but I'm very fortunate to have that opportunity now," Parziale said. "I'm very excited for the upcoming year."
Parziale's margin of victory matched the third-largest in championship history. The 2017 Massachusetts Amateur champion's 7-under 63 in the morning 18 — with the usual match-play concessions — was the best score in a U.S. Mid-Amateur final since the USGA switched the format to 36 holes in 2001.
Parziale won the first two holes of the morning 18 with a par and a birdie, but Nichols squared the match with birdies at the par-3 third and par-5 fifth. That’s when Parziale caught fire, running off three straight birdies to win Nos. 5, 6 and 7.
After a Nichols birdie won the ninth, Parziale took No. 10 with a par and added birdies at the 13th, 14th and 16th to build his 6-up advantage. For practical purposes, the match was over at that point.
"I didn't play that bad," said Nichols, who shot even-par 70 in the morning. "He played amazing. Even great golf couldn't keep up."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.