UF's Parker Bell made his first career major tournament appearance Thursday at the U.S. Open in Pinehurst, N.C. (Ashleigh Lucas/WRUF)

U.S. Open Debut Proud Moment For UF’s Parker Bell, Family

PINEHURST, N.C.— On an unforgettable day, UF men’s golf star Parker Bell had a moment he’ll always remember: He was leading the U.S. Open.

Bell, 20, made his U.S. Open and major tournament debut Thursday morning at the historic Pinehurst No. 2 course, alongside 155 other professional and amateur golfers.

Bell, a Tallahassee native who just finished his sophomore season with the Gators, woke up bright and early Thursday to begin his opening round in one of the first tee times of the day: 6:56 a.m ET. He started the day strong on No. 1, making the first birdie of the 124th U.S. Open.

“At a big moment like this, you’re going to be nervous early (on),” Bell said. “But to get out there and birdie the first is cool.”

Even more cool, Bell was at the top of the leaderboard for several minutes, during which time his family received numerous calls, texts and photos of the TV screen.

Unfortunately, his spot at the top didn’t last long. Bell finished his U.S. Open debut with a 7-over-par 77, a day that featured a few highs and lows.

After the birdie on 1, Bell bogeyed the next three holes. Bell said he didn’t feel like he was hitting the ball poorly, but he wasn’t as sharp as the Open demands.

“It wasn’t like I was hitting like crap off the tee,” Bell said. “I was just kinda making some dumb mistakes.” 

Luckily for Bell, he regained momentum and made his second birdie on hole No. 5. He then bogeyed 6 and a tough double on No. 8 pushed him back to 4-over after his front nine.

Bell came out swinging to open his back nine with a birdie on the par-5 10th, his third of the day.

On hole No. 11, Bell again was put to the test. At the tee, he drove the ball right, into the wooded hazards and had no other option than try and punch the ball back onto the fairway. 

He saved par, however, with a terrific up-and-down by making a clutch putt.

“I just need to be sharper on my approaches,” Bell said. “[I] just can’t be leaving myself in some of the spots I did.”

UF’s Parker Bell walks past his family on the way to the tee box at hole No. 11 at the U.S. Open Golf Championship in Pinehurst, N.C., Thursday, June 13, 2024. (Ashleigh Lucas/WRUF)

Bell knew he couldn’t afford to give many more strokes away. So, according to his older brother, Riley, Parker approached this like he approaches everything else in life: with determination. 

“He’s the most determined young man I have ever seen,” said Riley Bell, the oldest of three Bell brothers and who turns 38 on Sunday. “He gets his mind fixated on something. If he gets so locked in, he can do anything.”

Parker Bell proved that when it mattered most by making the first of what would be three consecutive pars. 

Knowing his strength is with the driver, Bell relied on his length off the tee shots Thursday. He ranked sixth in the field for driving distance, averaging 334.9 yards in Round 1.

“I know I’m one of the longer hitters out here,” Bell said. “[But] it’s just a matter of if I hit it straight and I thought I hit it pretty straight today.”

However, a second tough double bogey put a damper on Bell’s Open debut.

On 16, on the long, difficult 523-yard par 4, Bell hit his drive a staggering 365 yards. Unfortunately, he drove it into pine straw on the right and again was forced to chip out. However, he left his third shot short of the green and then proceeded to miss his bogey putt.

With only two holes remaining to play, he left disappointed after his second double of the day 

 “That was just a really bad double,” Bell said.

More than 20 friends and family members were there to support him on along the way. Florida golf coach J.C. Deacon will also be at Pinehurst on Friday to show his support. Bell says he’s grateful for the encouragement and is happy to be living out his dream alongside the people he loves most.

Parker Bell had a large contingent of family and friends cheering him on Thursday during his U.S. Open debut.
Parker Bell had a large contingent of family and friends cheering him on Thursday during his U.S. Open debut. (Ryan Hunt/WRUF)

Riley is especially proud, as he wouldn’t dream of missing the opportunity to support his brother this week.  

“I don’t even know if I have a word for it, but [I’m] just proud,” Riley said. “Watching him tee off on No. 1 this morning was just really cool.”

At 7-over, Bell enters Friday five strokes behind where the projected cut line — which is the top-60 golfers and ties — sits after the first round. Though making it to the weekend rounds will be a challenge, Bell is not ready to give up on his dream and go home quite yet.

For Friday’s second round, Bell said his main shift in his game plan is to try to take advantage of the times when he hits a good drive.

“I really have nothing to lose [Friday],” Bell said. “If I can hit it like I did today off the tee, I really think I can shoot under par and be here on the weekend. I [just] got to sharpen some things up.”

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