It doesn’t get any better for a parent than to have a great Mother’s or Father’s Day experience. PGA Tour star Matt Kuchar has delivered on both occasions in memorable fashion. From the very start, when he burst onto the golf scene at The Masters in Augusta, Georgia, to last year’s Players Championship, his close relationship to his parents has been front and center.
From Tennis to Golf
For the Kuchar family, it was the tennis courts that first attracted them to a country club near Orlando, Florida. Peter Kuchar, Matt’s father, was ranked No. 1 in Florida Doubles for age 35 and over in 1988. Matt was also very good at an early age, while splitting his time with golf.
But, said Peter, “I decided I had gone as far as I could with tennis, so we crossed the road to the golf course and never looked back.” Matt followed suit, steadily rising through the ranks of the junior golf world, including many top finishes in AJGA events. With multiple offers on the table, Matt chose Georgia Tech for college, following in the footsteps of the legendary Bobby Jones.
Although he had never won a big junior event, this was soon forgotten when he won one of his first college golf tournaments and wound up All-American his freshman year. That summer, father and son would have the first of several life-changing events at the U.S. Amateur in Chicago. Matt was coming into the event with a head of steam having finished second in the Porter Cup, including a round of 62. With dad as caddie, the Kuchars steadily gained momentum during the week, turning back one top player after another to make it to the final match against Stanford star Joel Kribel. Along the way, Matt had charmed the galleries with his easy-going manner and ever-present smile.
Under the surface, though, the tension was taking its toll on both. Despite being nauseous at the start, Matt played brilliantly, gaining a 7-up advantage with 10 holes to play. At that very moment, Kribel mounted one of the great comebacks, firing off a string of birdies to pull to 2 down with 2 to play. He even played a miraculous recovery shot on the last, but his birdie putt hung on the lip, allowing Kuchar to secure victory with his safe par. As the 1997 U.S. Amateur Champion, he would play in the Masters with none other than Tiger Woods who had won his first Green Jacket earlier that year.
The Kuchars really gained national attention at that Masters in 1998 as the underdog amateur matched Tiger shot for shot the first round. With Peter again on the bag, Matt seemed to make everything he looked at that week, and the two became crowd favorites. As “Low Amateur” in the tournament, the entire Kuchar family was invited to the Champions Dinner held the evening of the final round, a dinner that Peter calls “the most exclusive club in golf.“
Icing on the cake came that summer at the U.S. Open, where Matt again played well and finished 14th. During the final round, Peter recalled, “The gallery sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Matt and wished me Happy Father’s Day on nearly every tee.“
For a while, the Kuchars thought Matt would follow in the footsteps of Bobby Jones and remain an amateur. Soon he realized that his real call was the Pro Tour, and he found success early, winning the 2002 Honda Classic. The next couple of years were challenging as his game slowly got worse until he lost his tour card.
In 2006, two things happened that Peter credits with today’s success. First, Matt decided to work with instructor Chris O’Connell, and, second, they found the AeroTech shafts that Matt still uses today. From there, his game has steadily improved each year.
In 2010 he won the PGA Tour Money Title and Vardon Trophy. Last May, he reached another plateau by winning the Players Championship on Mother’s Day to the delight of his mom, Meg, who was standing close by.
The Kuchars are a close-knit group. Peter and Meg Kuchar live in Ponte Vedra Beach, not more than a long cart ride from the TPC Sawgrass, home to the Players Championship. Matt and wife Sybi reside near her parents, just an hour and a half to the north, on St. Simons Island, adjacent to Sea Island.
When he is not playing golf, Matt dives into tennis, where he and Sybi are a nationally ranked Husband-and-Wife team. Sybi played on the Georgia Tech Tennis Team after a successful junior career.
Matt’s younger sister Rebecca lives in Novato with her husband Patrick Krutz, a winemaker. Krutz Family Cellars was recently honored as having the best malbec in California. The winery is also known for its cabernet and chardonnay.
As Meg Kuchar puts it, “We have been blessed.” Indeed, the PGA Tour is also blessed to have a story like this one. We look forward to seeing Matt’s continued progression, which may lead him to an even more prominent table at that Champions Dinner one day.