Friday, November 2, 2012

Brush with greatness: Matt Kuchar

It's been a long time since I've done one of these "Brush With Greatness" things. I'm all out of baseball players that I've talked to, which means I have to go outside my collecting interests and attempt to track down football and hockey and basketball cards of players I've interviewed in the past.

And I don't want to track down football and hockey and basketball cards.

And I especially don't want to track down golf cards.

But when the card falls in my lap, like this card here, then you'll get a Brush With Greatness segment.

Matt Kuchar's had a pretty good 2012. He finished third at the Masters. He won the Players Championship. He was rated as high as fifth in the world rankings. In fact, his last three years have been pretty good. Ryder Cup, and a few PGA tourney wins, and the leading money-winner one year.

I talked to Kuchar when he was still in college. It was a month after his greatest victory to that point. Kuchar had just won the U.S. Amateur by taking a seven stroke lead with 10 holes to play, choking almost all of it away, and then holding on mightily for the title.

The U.S. Amateur was a huge deal at that time -- bigger than ever -- because the man who had won the U.S. Amateur the previous three years before Kuchar was Tiger Woods. Attention was sky high. And out comes this kid from Georgia Tech -- a sophomore with a great, big, goofy smile -- and captivates the golf world. Children flocked to Kuchar, he was so approachable.

Kuchar's dad was his caddie for the tournament. His dad also happened to go to high school where I live. So I went about tracking down the family and Kuchar. The dad was easy. He was real chatty, too. Kuchar was a little more difficult, only because he was in high demand, and also trying to get ahold of athletes through major colleges can be a real struggle over the phone. I'd almost rather call up the New England Patriots and ask to talk to Tom Brady then try to arrange an interview with a Division I college. It really shouldn't be that difficult.

But Kuchar was great to talk to, as well. Simple, sincere, and in awe of what he had just done. Just 2 weeks prior, he had introduced himself to Tiger Woods for the first time.

After Kuchar made it onto the PGA Tour, he encountered some difficulty. He lost his Tour card and played in golf's minor leagues. But after adjusting his swing, he emerged around 2009 and seems to be back to stay. Ever since that interview, I've rooted for him. As much as I can root for a golfer anyway.

I often say that being a professional golfer is the best job in the world -- as  long as you're good at it, that is.

1. You're playing a game and get paid very well.
2. You're outside.
3. For the most part, you only play in places that are warm and beautiful.
4. People have to shut up whenever you swing.
5. And as always with athletes, you get all the babes.

But this will probably be the only golf card I keep. It came from madding at Cards on Cards. It's from the 2001 Upper Deck golf set. And that's all the information I can give you on that.

I noticed a couple odd things about the back.

First, the stats line is useless. I'm guessing that it's blank because Kuchar hadn't played in a lot of PGA tournaments then, so there weren't any real stats for him. But, couldn't Upper Deck have adjusted with the younger players and put college info in there?

Secondly, the write-up is wrong.

Kuchar was the 1997 U.S. Amateur champion. The article I wrote was published on Sept. 21, 1997. Hank Kuehne was the '98 champion.

See? I know a few facts about other sports besides baseball.

It's a requirement of the job.

But trust me, I'd rather do stories just about baseball.


  1. Golf is such an individual sport that I would think they would put even more effort into getting the details right than they would with players from a team sport.

  2. I like the pt of your account about trying to get a hold of Kuchar thur GT. Just read a synopsis of Paper Lion - Plimpton made 1 call to get the git - He got the team secretary who patched him thru to the Lions team president.

    sure was a different era.

  3. Thanks for a golf story. That was a nice surprise.