Kuchar family travels together for PGA Tour
Monday, February 3, 2014
Unmistakable indicators at every slow, admiring turn of the head. Whales breaching. Molokai rising majestically from the ocean. Waves crashing against the rocks. Sun pouring down. Warmth holding tight.
Sure signs that the PGA Tour had returned to its traditional starting line – the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort, where spirits soar, stress evaporates and elation consumes you.
Oh, and the irrepressible smile of Matt Kuchar? The final piece to a picture of tranquility.
“Kooch? His life is a vacation,” said Gary Woodland.
Facetious? Judge for yourself, because two weeks in Australia had highlighted Kuchar’s late November/early December, then there was a stop in Fiji. En route home to Sea Island, Ga., he went to Tiger Woods’ charity tournament in California, then to Greg Norman’s event in Naples, Fla. Once home, Kuchar stayed 10 days before sweeping toward Maui for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, then penciled in Honolulu for the Sony Open, after which he plans to set up camp on the Big Island of Hawaii for four weeks of R&R.
Forget Waldo. Where’s Kooch?
“On vacation, somewhere,” Woodland said. “He lives life to the fullest.”
Yes, but the best part? The 35-year-old Kuchar does not go it alone, his travel team completed by wife Sybi and sons Cameron, 6, and Carson, 4. Together they have seen much of the world and scripted a four-year run of PGA Tour consistency that is a marvel.
“It’s fun to have people to share experiences with,” Kuchar said. “If you win a golf tournament, you want to have your wife and kids there to run onto the green. It would be a stinky finish to Sunday, getting a trophy and being by yourself.”
No worries there for Kuchar, for Sybi has been his soulmate and constant companion since they met at Georgia Tech in the mid-1990s, and the additions of Cameron in 2007 and Carson in 2009 completed the quartet. Kuchar does not think it’s a coincidence that since a conscious decision in 2010 to travel everywhere as a foursome, his play has been nothing short of spectacular: In 97 PGA Tour tournaments he has missed only six cuts while piling up four victories and five runners-up among 39 top-10 finishes and nearly $19 million in prize money.
Oh, and thousands and thousands of miles and smiles.
To suggestions that the annual Hyundai Tournament of Champions would feel different – it might have been the first tournament of the year, but it was the seventh on the schedule thanks to this wraparound business – one only had to bask in the Maui sunshine from the Plantation Course’s first tee to realize how much nonsense that was.
Molokai to your right, Lanai to your left and breathtaking elevation changes everywhere told you that you were among friends, one of whom, Clifford Naeole, offered his traditional blessing in Hawaiian. “The invitation is open to come into our house. Mahalo.”
When Kuchar meandered onto the first tee with a smile brighter than the sun dancing on the Pacific, it signaled that the enjoyment of PGA Tour competition was back after a brief hiatus.
“He doesn’t let one bad shot ruin a hole, doesn’t let one bad hole ruin a round, doesn’t let one bad round ruin a tournament,” caddie Lance Bennett said. “He just loves golf, just loves to play golf.”
Perhaps the only thing he loves more is hitting the road with Sybi, Cameron and Carson, their lifestyle a concerted effort. “We love being together,” Sybi said. “We mesh so well, and our personalities are similar.”
To appreciate how in sync Matt and Sybi are, consider that in 2009 they nearly won a U.S. Tennis Association national husband-wife doubles championship. And when she talks of her competitive days as a junior tennis player, Sybi said, “I pictured my life like this, but it was me playing tennis and traveling the world.”
So things have been edited slightly. No worries. “In my mind, I’m living the life I always thought I’d have,” she said. “It doesn’t seem weird; it seems normal.”
Cameron is already on his second passport, and the list of destinations where he and his brother have gone is impressive: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Turkey, Greece, Thailand, China, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Bora Bora, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada.
“It’s been fun,” Sybi said. “I hope (Cameron and Carson) remember this. They seem to really enjoy it and they’ve done so much of it, they don’t know much different.”
If the kinship between them has provided a stability that Kuchar insists is at the heart of his great run of golf, he doesn’t deny some fears that percolate.
“I’m nervous about when the time will come when the kids need to stay home and want to stay home,” he said, adding that a woman travels with them more than 20 weeks per year to teach the boys.
“At the moment we’ve got a great system. It’s great now, but at some point they’re not going to travel. It’s going to be hard going back to being a bachelor, just being on my own.”
Sybi, as upbeat as her husband, shares his way of dealing with such a reality.
“We try not to think about it,” she said. “It will be a sad day.”
Better, then, to focus on the here and now, like the sun and warmth and slice of Kapalua paradise that ushered Team Kuchar – and all of us – into another PGA Tour season.