It’s a scene that can only be painted, not told in words. It’s a kid walking down a grassy lane with a fishing pole on his shoulder, an old straw hat on his head and a grin on his face. It’s a kind of young America we see too little of any more. Youth in all its exuberant innocence, stealing the hearts of the most sophisticated galleries in golf. What Augusta National saw Saturday was something out of an old dog-eared, golfing scrapbook. Where is Norman Rockwell when we need him?
Matt Kuchar is 19 years old and a sophomore at Georgia Tech, playing in the Masters because he won the U.S. Amateur championship. Usually, the amateurs shoot a pair of high numbers the first two days, then stick around to enjoy the rest of the fun. Kuchar made the cut Friday with a pair of late birdies, then started out Saturday with four birdies in the first seven holes. This began to attract a crowd, and by the time he made the turn, it looked like a rebirth of Arnie’s Army.
He had charmed the galleries the first two days without intending to. He was only being his natural Kuchar self, smiling all the way around the course, even when the demons struck. When he came off the 11th green Saturday, where he’d saved par with a nervy 8-foot putt, the gallery sprawled around that confluence of holes gave him a standing ovation. He smiles that smile and gives back a sort of half wave.
I mean, what’s a kid to do?
“I don’t have any kind of calling-card wave, or anything like that,” he said. “I just can’t imagine all those people following me around, watching me play golf.”
Here’s a kid not thinking about going corporate and turning pro because he doesn’t want to leave his teammates. “If I went pro, I’d miss traveling with the team. I want to stay the full four years in school. Our major goal is to win a national championship. I’d miss going places with the guys and hanging out with the team.”
It made you want to stand up and cheer in the press room.
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