Sophomore sensation finishes even

By Robbie Broadnax
Sports Staff

Photo Courtesy of Georgia Tech SID
Matt Kuchar was the talk of the Masters tournament last weekend. For in-depth coverage, see page 33.

On Monday, April 6, Georgia Tech sophomore Matt Kuchar arrived at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia to compete as an amateur in the 1998 Masters golf tournament. The Masters is one of the PGA's most prestigious golf tournaments, one of the four "majors" that every player dreams of winning. A week later, the nineteen-year old sophomore had captured the heart of golf fans everywhere.
Kuchar, a Lake Mary, Fla. native, earned a spot in this tournament by defeating Joel Kribel of Stanford at the 1997 U.S. Golf Amateur Championship. Traditionally, the U.S. Amateur champion automatically receives a spot in the Masters, U.S. Open and the British Open golf tournaments.
At the beginning of the week, Kuchar was utterly clueless about the week that would unfold before him. Little did he know that by Sunday, he would be in a position to win the tournament.
During the first round of competition, which began on Thursday, Kuchar was paired with the defending Masters champion, Tiger Woods. Kuchar played extremely well considering the strong winds that plagued the first round of play. In fact, he played most of Thursday under par, but ran into trouble at the par-five 15th when he landed his second shot in the water. After receiving a double bogey for the hole, Kuchar scored a bogey on the 16th after driving his first shot into the water again. However, he finished the day at even par, only 3 strokes behind the leader, Fred Couples. At one point during the day, he was leading the tournament by one stroke.
Unlike Thursday, Tech's sophomore sensation was not so fortunate on Friday. After shooting an amazing score of even par on Thursday, Kuchar began the day with four bogeys. Although he finished the day at four-over par, he made the cut by two strokes.
After making the cut, Kuchar realized that he was no longer playing for experience, but rather he could conceivably win the tournament. With this thought in mind, he shot an amazing round of four-under par (68) on Saturday to bring his overall score back to even.
On Sunday, Kuchar began the day just six strokes off the lead. He played even par until the fifth hole, where he made a bogey. Kuchar regained this stroke with a birdie on the ninth hole. and eventually finished Sunday at even par for the tournament (72-76-68-72), nine strokes off the lead.
Although Kuchar did not win the tournament, his captivating smile and general enthusiasm did win the audience over and made a lasting impression on the crowds at Augusta National. During the awards ceremony at the end of the tournament, Kuchar was recognized as the lowest-scoring amateur. However, more important for Kuchar is that his 21st place finish placed in the top 24 of the tournament, automatically qualifying him for next year's tournament.

Georgia Tech Sports Information
Kuchar appeared to enjoy his visit toAugusta National last weekend, where he finished at even par.

In addition to Kuchar's success at the Masters, former Georgia Tech All-American David Duval placed second after losing to Mark O'Meara on the final hole by one stroke. Duval led the tournament on Sunday after the leader, Fred Couples, received a double bogey on the par five 12th. With three holes to go, Duval made two pars and a bogey. However, both Couples and O'Meara tied Duval's score of eight-under par. O'Meara ended up getting a birdie on the 18th hole to win the tournament.
Another former Tech golfer who had a good weekend at the Masters was 1995 graduate Stewart Cink. Cink finished one stroke behind Kuchar for the tournament with four day total of 289, one over par for the tournament.
The threesome represented Georgia Tech well and gave the Rambling Wreck serious exposure as television commentators mentioned Tech at every opportunity.
Kuchar made sure that was no mistake as to what school he was from by wearing a Georgia Tech shirt and having Georgia Tech club heads. Due to NCAA regulations, Kuchar was not allowed to collect the $38,400 that he earned by placing 21st in the tournament. In order to collect the prize money, he would have to forfeit his amateur status.
When asked about forfeiting the prize money, Kuchar replied "I guess I can get used to passing it up. It's probably worth staying in school because I don't think you can get a monetary value on what we get in school, the relationships I have with my coach and team."
This weekend, the third-ranked Georgia Tech golf team, led by Kuchar, will play in the ACC championship in Uwharrie Point, North Carolina.

Copyright © 1998 by Gregory S. Scherrer, Editor and by the Student Publications Board

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