AUGUSTA, Ga. – He was given a chance to get out of his father’s shadows – but not by much. Kevin Stadler’s first-round tee time Thursday was 7:56, a mere 44 minutes before Craig Stadler would start.
But once the kid got into the flow of the opening round of the 78th Masters, it was as if father and son weren’t even on the same course.
Kevin’s crisp, 2-under 70 was miles ahead of Craig’s 82, a score that matches the worst of the father’s 117 rounds in 38 Masters. Whatever gulf exists before them in their personal life, father and son are even wider apart in competitive golf, which is understandable.
The 1982 Masters champion, after all, is 60, and seems to be prepared to call it quits in this annual major. If that’s true, it would be easier to take should Kevin maintain his level of play. What would make it all so much nicer, the Stadlers would probably tell you, is if these sappy father-son questions could come to an end.
It’s been a nice storyline all week – Craig and Kevin Stadler the first father and son to compete in the same Masters – but the son sure sounded as if he’d had enough. When the questions came at him about his round of golf, his four birdies and two bogeys, the 34-year-old seemed to smile.
Which isn’t to say he was revealing. Because the truth is, Kevin Stadler is by nature a quiet and shy young man. He conceded he was nervous standing over his first-ever Masters shot, “but I was good to go after the first hole,” and that he was just happy that the temperatures rose dramatically from the early-morning frigidness.
“It was perfect today,” said Stadler, who sandwiched birdies at five and seven around a bogey at the sixth, then shook off a bogey at 11 with birdies at 12 and 13. Riding home with five straight pars, Kevin Stadler was the first player to reach the clubhouse under par. And if anything about the day was unsettling, you wouldn’t have known it – except for when Kevin was peppered with a few questions about his father.
“No bet,” he said, when asked if he offered to give his dad a few shots a side, as Craig Stadler had suggested with a laugh. And so far as advice goes, Kevin shook his head. “Not a lot, to be honest with you. I think he thinks it better to let me figure it out myself.”
If that indeed was Craig’s plan, then give them credit. They pulled it off beautifully, because Kevin surely figured it out.
“I’ll take 2 under all day, every day,” said the son.