Luke DeCock

Kyle Thompson’s 4-foot birdie at Rex Open reversed his career course

Right about the time Kyle Thompson was posing with the winner’s trophy at the Rex Hospital Open on Sunday, Scott Parel was boarding a flight to Minneapolis, long gone from the course.

Parel was one putt away from joining Thompson and two others in a playoff. Instead, while they were playing two extra holes, he was hustling to get to Iowa to try to qualify for a Champions Tour event on Monday as the 50-year-old tries to move between the senior tour and the Tour.

Parel, who went to Georgia but didn’t play on the golf team, and didn’t even turn pro until he was 31, is trying to make a career of it. So is Thompson, who was on the verge of quitting the game if he didn’t make the cut and now has every chance to play on the PGA Tour next summer instead.

The names aren’t as familiar out here on the Tour, but the stakes might be even higher. The money is the least of it. Because the top 25 spots on the money list receive exempt status on the PGA Tour, a single win can be a ticket to the big time.

Entire careers can hang on a single putt. One did Sunday at TPC Wakefield Plantation.

“My back was to the wall,” Thompson said. “If I start thinking about it I’ll get emotional.”

Thompson, who also won this tournament in 2007 and 2011, jumped all the way to 15th on the money list with the win, but it was more than that. Coming into the week, he didn’t even have any way to get into any more tournaments this summer. With one putt, he’s in all of them.

Thompson’s 4-foot birdie putt to beat Patton Kizzire and Miguel Carballo on the second playoff hole turned his entire career around, and that’s not an overstatement.

“Really, this win revitalized his career,” said Thompson’s wife, Emmi, their two young children at her feet. “It totally did.”

Those are the momentum swings on this tour. Kizzire knows. He’s now No. 1 on the money list without winning a single tournament, which is unprecedented. This is his sixth top-10 finish without a win, tied for second his best yet.

Last summer, he said, he finished 11 times on various mini-tours before he finally won. And even without a win, his current spot on the money list puts him in good position to make the jump next year.

“It’s coming,” Kizzire said. “I’m just going to continue to put myself in position.”

While Kizzire and Carballo and Thompson are thinking about the PGA Tour, Parel is going from week to week on the Tour while trying to squeeze into Champions Tour events where he can.

Whether he does or not, he’s still living a dream many spectators probably harbor. After 10 years as a computer programmer and database administrator, he quit his job to give professional golf a try. He was older than the combined age of his playing partners on Thursday and Friday, which happens all the time.

Had he made his putt on 18, he would have been the fourth guy in the playoff with a chance to win, but he also would have missed his flight and a chance to qualify for the senior event.

“It’d be nice to be able to play on all three tours next year,” Parel said. “The situation with the purses (on the Champions Tour), what goes on out there, it’s probably a good place for me to try to make as much money as I can these next five years. But you still have to play good out there. If I can compete with these guys, at this level, I hope I can do OK out there.”

He’s planning to be back here again in the fall to attempt to qualify for the Champions Tour’s SAS Championship at Prestonwood Country Club, if he can’t break through before that – if he can’t make the kind of putt that could turn his career around, like the one Thompson made Sunday.

DeCock:, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947