Kevin Stadler won the Waste Management Phoenix Open yesterday, a victory -- his first.
I have been following Kevin Stadler's professional golf career closely ever since I attended the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills at the eastern end of Long Island. Stadler, the younger, had not yet established status either on the Web.com or PGA tours, but managed to gain entry to the Open through the local and sectional qualifying process. I noticed his father, Craig, nicknamed the Walrus, a thirteen time winner and major champion (The Masters) on the regular tour, following Kevin on the spectator side of the ropes in the opening round.
|A tale of two Stadlers, Craig (L) and Kevin (R)|
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Craig Stadler was proud of his ``Baby Walrus.''
``Yeah, the `Baby Walrus' did OK out there,'' said Kevin Stadler after shooting a 2-under-par 68 Thursday.
Dad's grin was discernible through a scruffy beard after his son's solid run in the first round of the U.S. Open.
``I walked every hole with him, he did great,'' said Craig, known throughout his career as ``The Walrus.''
On the opening day when Jay Haas, 50, shot 66 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, the younger Stadler talked proudly of his father.
``My dad's 51, and he won the B.C. Open last year,'' Kevin said. ``He chose not to try to play in this, but he definitely could be competitive with these guys.''
Craig deferred to his son, saying, ``No, no. This was his day.''Kevin Stadler made the cut at Shinnecock, but had a tough third round, so went off in the first pairing Sunday morning -- a slot reserved for the two players last in the field. I followed Kevin Stadler and J.J. Henry on the first nine in order to get a feel for how the course was playing and to identify key holes where I might set up outpost when the leaders would come by later in the day. Then the seventh hole happened. I had never seen anything like it.
June 21, 2004 | By TOM YANTZ And BRUCE BERLET; Courant Staff Writers
The first four to tee off Sunday in the U.S. Open were J.J. Henry, Kevin Stadler, Cliff Kresege and Billy Mayfair.
They were the guinea pigs of the fourth round at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, especially at the par-3 seventh hole.
Stadler had a 2-foot par putt that rolled off the seventh green and into a trap. Mayfair's missed 20-foot birdie try sped into rough between two traps. Henry, Stadler and Kresege each had triple-bogey 6 on the 189 yards of terror. Mayfair was the fortunate one, making an up-and-down for bogey.
After making his putt, Mayfair gave his rendition of Chi Chi Rodriguez's saber dance, waving his putter at the hole. He then thrust his arms skyward and received a rousing ovation.
``I don't practice that, and hopefully I'll never have to do it again,'' Mayfair said.As Stadler walked off the green I heard a familiar voice in the camera gondola behind me. It was Johnny Miller (NBC lead golf analyst) who had gotten wind of the carnage and come out to see for himself. I turned and said to Johnny "There will be no 63's out here today, Johnny," referring to his epic final round 63 that leapfrogged Miller to a U.S. Open victory at Oakmont thirty years previous. Miller chuckled, but the players didn't think it was so funny.
The USGA, criticized Saturday for the ultra slick seventh green, rolled all the greens before play Sunday except No. 7. And it changed the scheduled hole location to an easier one, but it didn't help the first four players.
The difficulty at No. 7 rattled the first four the rest of the day. Mayfair, who was even par through 36 holes, shot a career-high 89 Sunday to finish at 30 over. Stadler shot 85, Kresge an 82 and Henry, 76.
``The first two groups had to take it in the shorts, to be perfectly honest,'' NBC analyst Johnny Miller said during the telecast.
``It was a joke,'' Stadler said.
Kresge concurred, saying, ``Everyone is talking about how hard the greens were. You can bounce the ball [off it] into your hand. ... If that's the only way the USGA can protect par, they make it almost silly.''
Henry said greens such as the seventh were so fast that he had to alter his stroke. ``It's the first time I ever laid up on putts,'' he said. ``There were disasters waiting to happen everywhere.''
Officials later watered the green. Kevin was upset. His father was characteristically blunt.
"I had two feet for par and ended up with a six," Stadler said. "Then they watered the green after we went through. I don't know what the hell's going on.
"Every year it seems an official has a brain fart, and they had one today on No. 7," former Masters champ Craig Stadler said on NBC (Craig is Kevin Stadler's father). "I'm glad I'm not out there; it's a joke. A third of the field might shoot over 80."
Later Sunday, officials started watering the rest of the greens on the course at least once. "The USGA will continue to monitor course conditions throughout the round and take steps that may be deemed appropriate," Driver said in a statement.
That didn't sit well with Kevin Stadler, who shot 85 and finished at 27-over. "It's unjustifiable to make the course different for different people," he said. "It obviously didn't matter to us, we were eons out of the golf tournament. But they watered 18 after we went through, too. I just don't see how that's justifiable."In the intervening years, Kevin Stadler earned his way to the big tour by becoming a multiple winner on the Web.com tour, winning a European PGA tournament and consistently performing on the PGA tour, where when in
|The Smallrus and the Walrus|
Because Craig Stadler is a former champion he is privileged to play in The Masters so long as he pleases.
For years, Craig has continued teeing it up at Augusta National in hopes that Kevin would soon join him. When son finally tees it up in the field with dad this coming April, it will be the final time for the past champion.
“It’s really my last one,” Craig said by phone minutes after Kevin’s victory. “I kept saying, ‘You know, when he gets in, that’s my last one.”
“He probably would have liked it better,” Kevin added with a smile, “if I had gotten there five years ago, so he could call it quits then.”
It will be a fun and emotional tournament to watch.