For those with short memories, the affable young man wowed the world as an amateur at the 1998 Masters, reeling in the galleries at Augusta National with that broad grin and eyes as big as a kid's on Christmas morning. Now in Myrtle Beach as a Golf Channel invite for the Canadian Tour South Carolina Challenge and next week's CanAm Days Championship, Kuchar, in his typical fashion, breaks into that smile when he recalls the memorable weekend in Georgia where he threw his unofficial coming-out party.
'People will always seem to remember that,' says the 22-year-old, who was a shy Georgia Tech sophomore at the '98 Masters. 'It seems wherever I go, people ask me about that weekend. That was a little bit of golfer's heaven.'
That wasn't the last we'd hear from Matt Kuchar that summer. Just a few short weeks later at the U.S. Open, the 6'4, 200-pounder offered up an encore, heading into play Saturday just two strokes back of the lead before eventually settling for 14th. As the virtual star of the show in consecutive majors, Kuchar, the initial U.S. amateur champion after Tiger Woods went professional, seemed to have the world at his fingertips.
Opting to stay at Georgia Tech for his two final years rather than hopping aboard the endorsement train when it was at full steam, Kuchar turned pro in November and has missed the cut in both PGA tournaments he has entered-the Sony Open and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Seemingly unfazed by the results, Kuchar is openly point-blank when asked the difference between playing as an amateur as opposed to the pro ranks.
'During my amateur career, I became so accustomed to playing pro events that I've seen the depth of the fields improve and players getting better all over the world. But it's still golf; there really isn't a difference. My attitude and outlook doesn't change, you still want to win. The only difference is you may collect a paycheque on Sunday.'
With all eyes in Canada focused on Mike Weir, Kuchar stresses the Bright's Grove, ON native is a blueprint for what lies ahead for the Canadian Tour.
'Mike is a great guy, and I have been very impressed with how he has come along and become a force (on the PGA Tour),' says Kuchar. 'You like to cheer for everyone, but you always want to see the good guys do well. I know a lot of great players that have come off the Canadian Tour, and the level of golf on this Tour has certainly helped the level of competition worldwide.'
This weekend, The Golf Channel will outfit Kuchar with a microphone as he circles the course, offering viewers the chance to see, and hear, what goes through the head of a professional in any given situation. Does Kuchar worry about letting the occasional expletive slip?
'It (wearing the microphone) will be interesting for me because I've been trying to work on my post-shot routine. But I'm not worried about what I'll say. My mom always taught me growing up to act like a gentleman.'
Not surprisingly, the interview ends with Matt Kuchar smiling.