Dream tour for McLachlins
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ann Miller
There came a time early in Parker and Kristy McLachlin's marriage when they realized the challenge of being together 24/7 was far better than being apart while Parker played professional golf. Their life has been a blur of warm weather, airports, beautiful resorts with beautiful people, resourceful online errands, the best golf atmosphere in the world and laundromats since.
Parker's drive off Kapalua Plantation's first tee tomorrow, in the first round of his first Mercedes-Benz Championship, will be yet another tangible reminder of how far the 1996 Hawai'i high school champion has come. It will also serve as sweet evidence of the part Kristy, his wife of four years, has played.
"The first three years I was playing professionally we weren't together so that was a strain on our relationship," Parker said. "For me, playing professional golf is really exciting and something I always dreamed about doing. The challenge of trying to get better and see how good I can become is real exciting. It's definitely an added bonus for Kristy to be there."
Added Kristy: "Now we can go out for as short or long as he wants. It's totally based on his energy and his game. I think if I was home and he had a pull to come home he would do it more based on us and family rather than on his own judgment."
As glamorous as tour life sounds, the choice was somewhat tough to make. Ultimately, the McLachlins figured now was the time to do it, before they started a family and had other obligations. Kristy started touring with Parker when he played on the Nationwide Tour in 2006, through his graduation to the PGA Tour in 2007 and his breakthrough 2008 season. He won the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open last year to qualify for Mercedes, tripling his earnings ($1.3 million) and moving up nearly 200 spots in the World Golf Ranking.
The couple met at the wedding of pro golfer Jason Allred six years ago. He is Kristy's "hanai cousin" and her family's only connection to golf. When she first told her parents what Parker did for a living, they asked what his "real job" was. She has never played the game nor has any real urge to try it.
Now, her parents are nearly as caught up in Parker madness as his — former Hawai'i high school athletic directors and coaches Chris and Beth. And, while Punahou graduate Parker works with a new swing coach and maps out 2009 golf goals, Kristy is right with him, taking care of anything and everything that could be a distraction.
Being together nearly every moment, "and me being present at his work, which is unusual" remains a learning process going into its fourth year. Kristy takes care of all the logistics involved in traveling the tour some 30 weeks a year, which is a $200,000 undertaking.
And Parker ... "I just kind of show up," he joked.
They fly to events Sunday night, spend Monday exploring the next new city. Often they do laundry — "maybe the most non-glamourous part of the tour," according to Kristy.
While he practices Tuesday and Wednesday, she is basically chained to her computer inside the hotel or private housing, paying bills and planning trips.
She breaks free a few hours Wednesdays to be with the PGA Tour Wives Association, which often schedules projects in tour cities. Last year, it helped build a Habitat for Humanity house in New Orleans and sent CARE packages to soldiers as a followup to a Texas luncheon with Women of Operation Homefront, which supports troops, families left behind and wounded soldiers and their families.
She watches Parker play tournament days, usually missing the front nine Sunday so she can pack up, check out and get ready to do it all again.
There are no complaints. Where else can Parker live out his dream and both of them see the country, drive a courtesy car each week, get over the disappointment of a missed cut at Fenway Park, sit in the front row of "Jersey Boys" on Broadway and eat at unique restaurants?
Parker and Kristy post a blog on parkermclachlin.com that tries to take fans "inside and outside the ropes" and, apparently, make them hungry. The couple searches out "exotic" and "hole-in-the-wall" local eating establishments. Some of their best finds last year were in Moline, Ill. — especially Whitey's Ice Cream, famous for shakes so thick they can be turned upside down with nothing spilling out — and Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where they ate shrimp tacos, guacamole, and arrachera (flank steak) all week, followed by cribbage games at sunset.
The McLachlins often spend off-the-course time with Matt and Sybi Kuchar and golfers they came up with from the Nationwide Tour. Movies and sporting events — this year they hope to watch brother Spencer and his Stanford volleyball team play — are a favorite pastime. Some of their most memorable moments last year were watching six fireworks shows from their hotel room July 4 in Washington, D.C., sipping wine at Harriman State Park in New Jersey and watching a "Justin Timberlake And Friends" concert until 1 a.m. at the Las Vegas tour stop.
Overall, they try to make the best of what they realize is a blessed situation. Last month, they took a vacation to Italy the same week as Qualifying School, a symbolic gesture after Parker advanced from the last two Q-schools. This week on Maui, they tried to set aside the last four days for each other before the "grind" of another season begins.
"I'm looking forward to Mercedes," Parker said. "I'm not sure what to expect with only 30-something guys there. I'm used to having 140 guys. I think that will be interesting. It probably won't feel like a normal tour event, maybe a little more relaxed and intimate.
"I'm thinking of it as a great opportunity on a golf course I've played a lot of times. I'm hoping to impart some of that local knowledge. It's a great opportunity to finish top five and win. The odds go up a lot with 30-something guys. To me, it will be a sweet opportunity to try and notch my second victory."
Reach Ann Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.