The name might escape you, not the smile.
Matt Kuchar has the smile, one that pageant contestants can envy. It’s the "I’ve actually one the election!" smile for politicians, the "I finally got the ring!" smile for girls who just became engaged.
Kuchar, pretty successful on the PGA Tour for the last three years, climbed the next rung of pro golf’s ladder last weekend by winning The Players Championship, often described as the fifth major.
And he did it smiling all the way through, having fun.
The former U.S. Amateur champion is another rising star who is easy to like.
What Kuchar accomplished could be an omen.
He and Conway’s Bryce Molder were teammates and roommates at Georgia Tech, both fun-loving, highly competitive pushing each other to the limit. He was a year ahead of Molder in college, turning pro the year before.
Kuchar, now 33, has seemed on the edge of greatness for several years but had his struggles on tour. Kuchar is now showing the poise, patience and maturity it takes to win on the PGA Tour. That could be an indication that Molder, who has won one PGA tournament but has come so close several times to bigger things, might be ready within the next year to have his breakout season to shoot among the golf’s elite.
At the NCAA golf tournament in 2000 at Auburn, Ala., I remember sitting in a popular restaurant in the area, observing the Georgia Tech team and their parents and friends. They had fun, plenty of it. The jokes, stories and banter were as rich as the food.
Much of it came from Kuchar’s parents. I was particularly impressed with the support group for both Kuchar and Molder and I witnessed firsthand how family had shaped them. When Molder signed with Georgia Tech, he was elated Kuchar had decided to stay in college after winning the U.S. Amateur because Kuchar was a serious golfer who had fun.
Kuchar had his major victory Sunday on Mother’s Day.
Afterward, it was a touching family scene as his two young sons rushed the green, followed by his wife, Sybi, a former tennis star at Georgia Tech. Kuchar hugged and high-fived his mother, whom he said taught him how to enjoy golf. He hugged his father, who plays tennis with intensity and was on the bag with him as an amateur in 1998 when his smile burst onto the scene as an amateur in the Masters and U.S. Open.
"It’s such an amazing feeling — playing amongst the game’s best, to come out on top, to do it on Mother’s Day ... it really is magical," Kuchar said.
So is learning to have fun and smile during one of the most high-pressure, individual sports.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or email@example.com)