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Sunday, June 16, 2024

After transformative sophomore season, Parker Bell heads to first U.S. Open

The Florida Gators men’s golfer fought his way through the qualifiers to earn a spot in the 124th U.S. Open

Florida sophomore Parker Bell stripes his tee shot on the third round of NCAA Regionals on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.
Florida sophomore Parker Bell stripes his tee shot on the third round of NCAA Regionals on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.

After watching the scoreboard in the closing stages of his round, Florida sophomore golfer Parker Bell knew he stood in a good spot to qualify for his maiden U.S. Open, but it almost came back to bite him. 

As he prepared for his shot on the 16th tee box at the Dallas Athletic Club, Bell was well within the cutline of 3-under and was 5-under on the day. He knew all he had to do to secure his spot in the U.S. Open was get into the clubhouse. 

On the short par 3, Bell put his tee shot in the water, making a double bogey. All of a sudden, he was in danger of missing the cut, and one more mistake would drop him from the playoff and out of the open. 

However, Bell kept his composure and held it together. He brought it home, getting up and down for par from about 80 yards out on his 36th hole of the day to advance into a playoff for the final qualifying positions.

“The old me probably would have spiraled out of control and thought the world had just ended and probably would not have made it,” Bell said. “It felt really good to come out on top because there's been a couple of tournaments this semester and moments when the stakes were the highest, [and] I didn’t come through.”

At 20, Bell is set to join an exclusive list of Gators who played in the U.S. Open. Bell never foresaw this possibility for himself, especially not at such a young age.

Bell did a lot of work off the course to help the mental side of his golf game. In a sport where athletes never want to get too high or low, this narrative held true when he took on the final holes in his final qualifying round.

“I've been working with a mental coach the last couple of months,” Bell said. “He's kind of really got me focused on my target and what I'm trying to do with the golf ball and just saying that to myself in my head.”

In his final qualifying round, Bell battled against some of the toughest golfers in the event, including Masters champion Sergio Garcia and PGA Tour veterans like Joel Dahmen, Kevin Streelman and Abraham Ancer. On top of that, Bell was tasked with playing 36 holes in one day. 

“When I looked at the field, I was like, gosh, this probably would have been the biggest tournament I’ve ever played in,” Bell said. “At the end of the day, they’re human too. They put their shorts on one leg at a time, just like me.”

Bell wasn't phased. He beat Garcia in the playoff to solidify his spot.

In his two seasons at Florida, Bell attributes his player and personal development to the quality of golfers, coaches and people around him.

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“When you're playing with guys that are better than you, it's gonna force you to get better,” Bell said.

Fifth-year Gator John DuBois saw Bell’s game grow immensely since his initial arrival at UF.

“Parker has been playing really solid, and I love to beat Parker,” DuBois said. “We’re close teammates… His development has come a long way. I caddied for him last summer for a couple of events, and we kinda joked about some of the things he did and where he was mentally.”

UF head coach J.C. Deacon witnessed Parker’s progress the most in the last 12 months. Deacon spent nearly every round walking with the sophomore this season. He’s proud of the golfer he became and how much his mental game improved as well.

Deacon is extremely proud of his progress and is even prouder that Bell can acknowledge his own growth. He said Bell’s incredible work ethic on and off the course was paramount to his progress and led him to this moment.

“When it comes to Parker, you probably gotta go back to day one and his freshman year,” Deacon said. “He probably physically or mentally wasn’t ready for this level. Parker was still very immature, and he just had so much to learn… He got surrounded by some great teammates and some guys who pushed him really hard, and Parker has come so far.”

One year ago, Bell made a deep run into the U.S. Amateur Championship and fell just short, losing in the semifinals. Getting the taste of almost playing his way into the U.S. Open was the fuel he needed to grow in the game of golf. 

With his first trip to Pinehurst approaching, Bell can’t wait to soak it all in and live out his dream with his cousin and long-time caddie right by his side.

“As a kid, you dream about playing in the Masters and in the U.S. Open,” Bell said. “Those are probably the main two tournaments you dream of playing in, and I don't know if I ever would have thought I was going to do it at the age of 20.”

Bell will have quite the introduction to the historic Pinehurst No. 2, as his June 10 practice round will be played with world No. 1 and two-time major champion Scottie Scheffler.

“I still don't know if it's quite set in yet,” Bell said. “Maybe when I get there, I'll finally realize, damn, I actually made it here.” 

Contact Chandler Hawkes at chawkes@alligator.org. Follow him on X @HawkesChandler. 




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