AUGUSTA, Ga. – Firsts at the Masters are few and far between, but Thursday when 1982 Masters Champion Craig Stadler and son Kevin Stadler tee off in the first round, it will be the first time in the 80-year history of the event that a father and son play in the same Masters.
Eleven times a father and son have played in the Masters, but never in the same year. While the list of father-and-son combinations are illustrious, the Boroses, the Geibergers, the Hutchinsons, the Loves and the Haases, none of the fathers or for that matter sons had won the Masters, until this week.
“I must say, this is a very, very cool thing,” Craig Stadler said of the experience. “And thanks to Kev here, I got back to the press room for the first time in about 20 years. I haven’t even been here since it was built, I don’t think.”
Kevin Stadler was just 2 years old when he father won his only major championship. The younger Stadler doesn’t remember the event, but he does remember that every April the family would make the trip to Augusta.
Some kids go to Disneyland or the Grand Canyon, but for the younger Stadler April meant Augusta – where some of his most vivid memories were whacking balls around the house they would rent that week.
“He was always Masters Champion when I was a kid, so it was just kind of a tag line that he earned when I was too young to recognize it,” Stadler said of his dad. “And obviously, it was cool to be able to come here and play for as long as you want the rest of your life, that’s pretty special. It was great to be able to tag along and walk around here. I couldn’t wait for April every year, when I was a kid, to come out here and just run rampant around the golf course and just watch him and watch all the kids of other people play. I used to love tagging around at tournaments, just watching the golf. It was what I got the most enjoyment out of when I was a kid.”
The elder and younger Stadler look the same, walk the same and have many of the same mannerisms. And at times both sport a signature goatee, which is how the elder Stadler earned his nickname the Walrus.
Kevin started playing golf at 4 years old and eventually went to the same college as his father, the University of Southern California.
When Kevin won his first professional event, the 2002 Colorado Open, his father was on the bag.
The close relationship was strained when Craig and his wife Sue divorced after 25 years of marriage.
But on a rainy Monday at Augusta National, the two looked like the personal strains of a divorce had at least been put on the back burner.
“It’s wonderful to be a dad, to be his dad,” Craig said. “I get people every week, every other week that say, I saw your boy at Phoenix or at Muirfield and what a great kid. Chatted with him, wonderful guy. And everything I have ever heard about Kevin on the golf course is positive from everybody.
“As a dad, you can’t get any better than that. They are just wonderful comments about what a wonderful guy he is, and he is. He always has been.”
The younger Stadler is more reserved than his father, but his game during the last couple of years has spoken volumes earning over $4.5 million in the last two-plus years on the PGA Tour.
At 14th on the FedEx Cup points list, Stadler is having the best year of his professional career with half the season left and his first Masters just days away.
“I think the last 2 1/2 to 3 years, he’s really managed his game and managed himself around the golf course better as far as playing,” Craig said. “He’s gotten way more consistent and way more confidence. I think he’s got the confidence now that he can beat anybody any given day, and he should because he’s a hell of a player.”