Kuchar family living dream at Augusta Father, grandfather partake in Matt's success

THE BALTIMORE SUN

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Watching them during yesterday's third round at Augusta National, it was difficult to tell which male member of the Kuchar family was having the best time.

Was it Matt Kuchar, the 19-year-old amateur who continued his remarkable debut at the 62nd Masters with a masterful 4-under- par 68 to put himself at even-par 216 going into the final round?

Was it Peter Kuchar, the 48-year-old caddie who was soaking up the spotlight cast on his suddenly famous son, whom he described as "more than a son, he's my best friend"? Or was it Maurice Kuchar, the 72-year-old lifelong golf fan who got both his grandson and son started in the game eight years ago, promising then 11-year-old Matt that he'd caddie for him at Augusta National.

"I think this is a dream for the whole family," said Matt Kuchar, a sophomore at Georgia Tech and the reigning U.S. Amateur champion.

The Kuchars are now sharing their dream. The large crowds that saw Kuchar with an even-par 72 while playing with defending champion Tiger Woods Thursday seemed just as excited as the family.

"I haven't really developed a calling-card wave, and I'm still trying to figure out what I should do," said Kuchar, who began the round at 4-over after a 76 Friday and started with four birdies on his first seven holes yesterday.

Though he will not likely equal Charlie Coe's amateur record of 7-under 281 set in 1961, a 1-under 71 will help Kuchar tie the fourth best score ever, set the same year by Jack Nicklaus.

There was a moment yesterday morning when the second-round leaders had yet to go out, and Kuchar saw his name on the leader board. The first person Kuchar thought of was his grandfather.

"I pictured how proud he'd be with a smile on his face," Kuchar said.

He wasn't far off, considering that Maurice Kuchar's smile seemed locked on his face. The elder Kuchar followed every one of his grandson's shots, just as he did several summers ago at Madison Country Club in Madison, Conn.

The elder Kuchar said he started the oldest of his three sons and four children in golf eight years ago. Peter Kuchar, a former college tennis player at Stetson University, is now a 5-handicap.

"I can't say I remember the first swing Matt took -- I wish I did," said Maurice Kuchar, who worked 38 years in financing for General Motors. "I told him, 'Matt the day will come when I will caddie for you at the Masters.' Never in my wildest dreams."

The elder Kuchar did caddie for his grandson four years ago at the Northeast Amateur. He said he wanted to caddie for his grandson here.

"My son wouldn't let me," said Maurice Kuchar. "I couldn't have done it anyway because my feet wouldn't have touched the ground."

Should Kuchar finish in the top 24 at the end of today's final round, he will receive an automatic return invitation.

"You guys are giving me all these goals," Kuchar said during a news conference yesterday. "I really haven't made goals. We're going to play it one shot at a time out there. And once we finish the last putt on 18, we're going to see how it stacks up."

Pub Date: 4/12/98

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