Rory McIlroy has his $200-million (U.S.) deal with Nike.
Tiger Woods has a net worth estimated at $500-million.
Phil Mickelson has endorsement deals with so many companies – Rolex, KPMG, Callaway, Exxon Mobil, Barclay’s, Amgen/Pfizer and even the arthritis drug Enbrel – that he starts off each golf season with $30-million in the bank.
And then there is Andrew Parr.
The remarkably named Parr – don’t even bother, he’s heard every joke imaginable – is a professional golfer from London, Ont., who currently lives in San Francisco and is hoping to make his mark on the tour.
To do so, he’s looking for a sponsor that has no brand, sells no products and couldn’t afford to take out an ad in a glossy magazine anyway.
This is not the fantasy of a weekend golfer: the 31-year-old Parr is a two-time Ontario amateur champion, attended Texas A&M on a full golf scholarship, won All-America status, turned pro and even briefly led the 2009 U.S. Open when the first day of the tournament was suspended because of rain.
Parr is turning to “crowd-sourcing” on the Internet to raise money to support a year of chasing his dream. By Wednesday, he had hit just shy of $43,000, more than halfway to the $75,000 he hopes to raise by week’s end.
But that is only part of his story.
The part that has nothing to do with money and everything to do with determination is that six years ago Parr suffered a stroke.
He was 24 years old, in peak physical condition and just beginning to make his mark in professional golf. He was going to visit a friend in downtown Toronto, but when he stepped off the elevator he could not feel his right leg.
“You read about how to watch for signs of a stroke,” he says. “But with me it was really sudden. My leg was completely numb. I had no feeling in it. And then my whole right side went paralyzed.”
It was a terrifying experience – his father had been barely 40 when he died of heart failure – but fortunately friends were able to rush him to nearby St. Michael’s Hospital. The problem was a small hole in his heart that may or may not have to be surgically repaired at some point. For now, under the advice of doctors, he is living with it and being careful with diet and exercise.
Parr’s recovery was remarkable. He was soon back hitting golf balls though his right side “felt like a sledgehammer.” He had to relearn many things he had taken for granted but is now considered fully recovered.
Dave Woods, the University of Toronto golf coach and director of instruction at Angus Glen Golf Club, worked with Parr before and after the stroke. Once Parr felt he was back in playing form, Woods took videos of the young man’s swing and compared it, frame by frame, to video taken before the stroke.
“Our eyes lit up,” Woods says, “the swings were identical.”
Woods is also involved with Golf Canada’s Long-Term Player Development program. He says that when Parr was of college age, “He was Canada’s No. 1 bet at the time – I would have bet anything that he was going to make it.”
Parr still believes he can, and will. Six months after the stroke, he qualified for the Shell Houston Open. He has come second twice on the Canadian tour and has had some success on the European tour.
It has, however, been a financial struggle. Because he does not yet have his tour card, Parr is among the many who must show up each Monday morning and attempt to qualify for the handful of openings available for tournaments that will not begin until Thursday.
“I’ve sort of done it all,” he says. “It sucks when you don’t get in because you’ve missed by a couple of shots – but it’s taught me resilience.”
Resilience, however, is about courage, not currency. “I had sort of hit a wall,” Parr says of scrambling through 2013. “I told myself ‘I need to figure this out, because it’s not working.’ I was sort of at a dead end and needed to restructure. I had to figure out what was going to be my next move.”
Earlier this year, Parr took an idea first floated by his swing coach, Canadian Sean Foley – also swing coach to Tiger Woods and other top professionals – and decided to try raising sponsorship money through crowd-sourcing.
Parr’s website, https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/join-team-parr-2014#home begins with a beautifully shot video of Parr playing golf on a misty morning and talking about his stroke and recovery.
Potential “sponsors” are offered a vast variety of levels, from a minimum $5 “good vibes” contribution to a $10,000 “inside-the-ropes” opportunity for a foursome during a pro-am to be held this summer prior to Web.com Tour’s Nova Scotia Open.
There are hats and golf shirts, golf bags, lessons, an opportunity to play a round with well-known golf writer Lorne Rubenstein and even a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a golfer not named Tiger to have a full day of private instruction with Foley.
“I had no expectations going in,” Parr says. “I knew it would have a decent start because of Sean’s involvement. But it’s sure been a lot more work than I thought.”
So busy has Parr become filling orders and responding to contributors – many of whom do so without requesting any of the prizes – that he has hardly had time to practise his game.
Parr figures the ideal amount raised would be the full $75,000, which would give him a full year in which he could concentrate on his game rather than his bills. He even provides a highly detailed breakdown of expenses on his website so that potential “investors” can see exactly what those costs are.
“This has been the most humbling experience,” he says. “Every day I’m almost to tears just reading the comments people send me.”
He has heard from people not seen since Grade 7 in London, from people who put him up during college tournaments a decade ago, but mostly from people who just admire his pluck.
“A lot of people say they’re inspired by this,” he says. “I think it shows that we can face adversity and we can overcome it.”
Woods, the golf coach, believes that Parr has a game that can shine on any of the world tours: he’s long and accurate off the tee and has an excellent short game around the greens.
“I’m very surprised he hasn’t made it on one of the bigger tours,” Woods says. “He has all the pieces.
“It’s just a matter of a little luck going his way.”
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