Originally created 07/31/98

Kuchar to defend U.S. Amateur, return to college



Matt Kuchar, tempted to turn pro after strong performances at the Masters and U.S. Open, will defend his U.S. Amateur title next month, then return to Georgia Tech.

"He was very close" to turning pro, his father, Peter Kuchar, said Thursday from his home in Orlando, Fla. "Whenever you're feeling pressure, the best thing you can do it to take a step back."

Golfweek first reported the decision in its "Fax Extra" weekly newsletter distributed Thursday.

"It was a decision that did not come easily, and one we now feel comfortable with," the father said.

Kuchar left out a slim possibility his son could change his mind, but "I'll bet you a lot of money come September that he's in class at Tech."

He said his son would likely make a formal announcement Aug. 17 during a previously scheduled interview on The Golf Channel.

The decision capped a whirlwind year for Kuchar, a 20-year-old whose happy-go-lucky smile and calmness under the pressure of competing in major championship endeared him to galleries and agents alike.

Kuchar tied for 21st at the Masters and was in the hunt at the U.S. Open in June until the back nine in third round. He finished tied for 14th, making him eligible for both those tournaments next year.

At the British Open, where he missed the cut, Kuchar said he was "dead in the middle" over whether to turn pro.

Industry sources estimated his endorsement value at about $2 million, although one source said most proposals relied heavily on Kuchar meeting incentives.

Peter Kuchar acknowledged it would be a financial gamble for his son to stay in school, especially if he fails to successfully defend his U.S. Amateur title Aug. 24-30 at Oak Hill.

"A lot of people are going to say, `Boy, is Kuchar stupid,' " the father said. "But just as many are going to say, `Good for him.' "

Kuchar has been in Britain for nearly all of July. He played at Loch Lomond with a sponsor's exemption and missed the cut, then missed the cut at Royal Birkdale a week later.

He and his mother took a vacation in Scotland, and Kuchar will play next week at St. Andrews in the Palmer Cup matches for college players from the United States and Britain.

He has planned a camping trip to New Hampshire as soon as he gets home, then will start preparing for the Amateur.

"It's been an incredible summer," Peter Kuchar said. "Nobody in our family ever dreamed our lives would be turned upside down. We felt pressure everywhere, and not just from agents."