Australia’s Greatest Golfer: Kel Nagle v Craig Parry

Perhaps if not for a slightly misdirected tee shot at the 12th hole of the final round of the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie Craig Parry would have joined Kel Nagle as a winner of The Open Championship.

A master of the Melbourne sandbelt who had success in both Europe and the US, Parry faces Nagle in the second round of our search for Australia’s Greatest Golfer having got the better of rising star Cameron Smith in round one.

Nagle got the better of Roger Mackay in the opening round but faces a tougher task against Parry who was a fixture on Australian leaderboards for more than 20 years and who was always a popular figure among golf fans across the country.

Born in Sunshine, Victoria, Parry joined the professional ranks in 1985 and in 1987 started to accumulate tournament victories, ‘Popeye’ recording his breakthrough win at the NSW Open followed by a second victory later that year at the Canadian TPC.

With laser-like tee shots and brilliant short game Parry came to the attention of American golf fans when he was tied for 11th at the 1991 US Open and followed that up by taking sole possession of the lead heading into the final round of the 1992 US Masters.

Although that day would end in disappointment it was a portent of things to come, Parry adding the Australian PGA Championship to the NSW Open and Australian Masters titles he had won earlier in the year.

Parry was victorious at Huntingdale three times in the space of five years and was a consistent winner on Aussie soil yet entered the 1999 Open without a top-15 finish in a major since he was tied for third at the 1993 US Open at Baltusrol.

Trailing Jean Van de Velde by five strokes entering the final round, Parry registered his third birdie of the day at the 10th hole and when Van de Velde dropped a shot at 11 he led by one with seven holes to play.

After his tee shot found the rough between two bunkers right of the fairway at 12 Parry’s pitching wedge intended for the fairway flew off the clubface into even deeper trouble left, his resulting triple bogey handing the advantage back to the Frenchman.

Parry’s most significant tournament wins would come after that Open heartbreak – a 2002 WGC-NEC Invitational victory and stunning playoff triumph at 2004 Ford Doral Championship – but a major would prove elusive.

Although he boasts 78 tournament wins across the globe and has six Australian PGA titles to his credit, it is Nagle’s 1960 Open victory at St Andrews that cemented his legacy.

Elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007 – the year Parry won his lone Australian Open crown – Nagle won five times in 1959 but the 39-year-old’s arrival at the Old Course in 1960 marked just his third start in a major.

Close friend Peter Thomson liked his chances prior to the tournament but sentiment was running against Nagle as American legend Arnold Palmer sought a third major in succession in his first appearance at the game’s most historic championship.

Nagle possessed the lead outright through 54 holes but with Palmer on a customary charge the ‘Pymble Crusher’ displayed incredible resolve, making a 10-foot putt for par at the famed 17th hole and then closing out the championship with a par at the last.

Kel Nagle
Career wins: 78
Major wins: 1 (1960 Open Championship)
Australasian Tour wins: 61
Australian Open: Won (1959)
Australian PGA: Won (1949, 1954, 1958, 1959, 1965, 1968)

Craig Parry
Career wins: 23
PGA Tour wins: 2
European Tour wins: 6
Australasian Tour wins: 13
Australian Open: Won (2007)
Australian PGA: Won (1992)

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