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67-year-old golf marshal Dale Parlin was "just a dad watching his boy" when he ducked behind a tree to watch his adult son tee off on the 15th hole at a public golf course in suburban Dallas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
67-year-old golf marshal Dale Parlin was "just a dad watching his boy" when he ducked behind a tree to watch his adult son tee off on the 15th hole at a public golf course in suburban Dallas.
It was the last thing he ever saw.
Scott Parlin's tee shot ricocheted off the tree, fatally striking his dad in the back of the neck. The father of five and grandfather of eight died the next day.
The son whose errant shot ended his father's life revisits the incident in a segment on the new show "Golf in America," which premieres at 10 p.m. CDT on the Golf Channel beginning Tuesday. Network officials described the show, hosted by comedian and "Law and Order" actor Anthony Anderson, as a golf-only version of "60 Minutes."
It was spring break in February 2005 when Parlin, a teacher and high school basketball coach in North Texas, decided to squeeze in a round at the course where his father worked as a marshal, making sure golfers followed the rules, maintained etiquette and didn't slow down play.
Dale Parlin was on duty that day and couldn't follow his son around the whole course. But he did drive his cart over to the 15th hole to catch him teeing off.
The hole is one of the prettiest on the course, with four large shade trees lined up across the fairway less than 150 yards from the tee box, with a large spillway in between. To the left looms a large dam that helps contain Lake Arlington.
Apparently feeling too exposed in the cart, the elder Parlin took cover behind the shade tree that was second from the left, out of the direct line of fire. But Scott's shot headed right toward him, from about 150 yards away.
The shot, Scott Parlin said, "was one in a million."
"I remember saying: `Oh my God. I think I hit him.' And then I started panicking," said Parlin, now 36. "That is a memory I will, unfortunately, never get out of my mind."
There was no time to fashion the right words or say their goodbyes. Dale told his son that his neck "stung" where he was struck. Scott asked his dad why he didn't try to move out of the way.
Within a minute or two, the elder Parlin was unconscious. He died the next day in the hospital of a cerebral hemorrhage.
Scott Parlin said the hardest part came in the days that followed, when he had to face his mother and siblings. He said they were understanding, and that he feels sadness but not guilt over the incident.
Today, the tree that Parlin stood behind has a small, easy-to-miss, hand-carved wooden marker nailed to the trunk. It bears Parlin's name, the date he died, a pair of etched crosses and the words "Fairway to Heaven."
The younger Parlin said he decided to discuss the incident with the Golf Channel in the hopes it would provide some answers and closure to family members, and as a way of honoring his father, who likely would be bemused at the attention.
"My father was completely the opposite of a 15-minutes-of-fame guy," Parlin said. "He didn't care what he wore, what he drove, where he lived. He was a loving father and a loving husband who enjoyed life and enjoyed his friends and treated everybody the same."
Most segments on the show aren't as somber as the piece on Parlin. Anderson, a self-diagnosed "golf addict" who frequently plays in pro-ams, introduces some of the stories, narrates some and even handles some of the interviews.
The actor said his favorite segment in the series, slated so far for 10 episodes, is about a pair of siblings who are among Canada's best young players. They learned the game from their father, who turned the master bedroom of their two-bedroom British Columbia apartment into a makeshift driving range, lining the walls with pads and mattresses.
Other segments include a story about a group of friends and family on a golf vacation who were on the US Airways plane that landed in the Hudson River and a feature on a West Virginia course that sat atop a massive Cold War-era underground bunker that was a fallout shelter for members of Congress in the event of nuclear war.
"These are human interest stories," Anderson said. "Anybody can tune in, whether you are an avid golfer or golf fan or not."
The Golf Channel aired a preview of the pilot during the Masters in April and plans to re-air that preview Sunday after the U.S. Open. The episode featuring the Parlins will air in July.
Each show is 30 minutes long, with three segments apiece. Golf Channel executive Tom Stathakes said the show is an effort to offer more than strait-laced golf programming.
"We are very good at covering golf -- this guy hit a 7 iron, or this guy hit an 8 iron," Stathakes said. "What we don't do so well is saying this is entertainment. Golf is supposed to be a game, but it's treated so reverentially all the time."