Grumpy-looking Stadlers are really nice guys

So, if it is his final year as a competitor in the Masters – and for the record, he has been suggesting for 20 years or so that it is – Craig Stadler is going out in style.

Grumpy-looking Stadlers are really nice guys

Trouble is, style suggests comfort which infers great warmth and with Stadler, it is difficult to even get a sense of warmth. He always looks grumpy, like he started his day with sour milk in his cereal and ended it with a cold piece of steak that was undercooked.

And guess what? It must be a genetic thing, because you could say the same about Stadler’s son, Kevin. Good gracious, he appears as if he’s permanently coming off of a double-bogey. Merry men, they are not. At least judging by appearances, but therein lies the problem. If you can’t judge a book by its cover, can you assess a person’s true personality by the dour expression on his face?

With the Stadlers, you can’t. Craig, now 60 and 32 years removed from his Masters win, might beat himself up on the golf course, but off it he is far gentler than one might suspect. Kevin, 34 and only a few months removed from his first PGA Tour win that earned him a spot in the 2014 Masters, is soft-spoken.

That they are tossed into the spotlight at this major championship because of their bloodlines and feel-good story – the first father-son duo to play in the same Masters – doesn’t make them uncomfortable; it’s just that they would like to move on from a story that really is old news for them.

“I’ve had that question a million times, what it’s like (to be in the same golf tournament as his father),” said Kevin, who was born two years before his father’s Masters win and turned pro in 2002. “It’s my dad. That’s all I know. I’ve never known how to answer that question. Just is what it is.”

Having bounced back and forth in his early years between the PGA Tour and the second-tier Tour, Kevin Stadler has stuck in the big time since 2007, though it wasn’t until early February of this season when he closed with a 68 to triumph at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. His first win earned him his first Masters triumph and almost since that final putt, the media inquiries have come fast and furiously. Eleven other father-son combinations had played in the Masters, but this would be the first time they’d be in the same tournament. As the questions came, however, so did they take on a sharper edge; inquiring minds wanted to know if there was friction between Craig and Kevin? Rumors swirled. Whispers circulated. When Craig and his wife of 25 years, Sue, divorced, it had driven a wedge between Craig and Kevin. True? False? Details? Neither man embraces a need to spill it out, so where that story stands is a private affair. For public consumption, Kevin says all is well. “It’s going to be good,” he has said all week, having faced a multitude of questions about being in the same field with his father. “It’s going to be fun.”

In the days leading up to this 78th Masters, there was serious thought to pairing father and son. No one ever went public with it, but someone who knows Kevin said the topic was broached and the son was not enamoured with the idea. In the end, sensible minds prevailed and while Craig and Kevin were paired in the Par 3 Contest Wednesday, when the real stuff arrived Thursday morning, Kevin went out in the second group, Craig in the sixth group.

Not together, which was probably best. But neither were they far apart, which is significant.

As Kevin hit his opening tee shot, Craig Stadler with vary little fanfare meandered out of the clubhouse, moved beneath the sprawling oak tree not 100 yards from the first tee, and watched.

It was a “pretty poor drive,” said Kevin, but it found the fairway, led to the first of four consecutive pars, and when he parlayed that strong start into a 2-under 70, his first Masters was off to a solid start.

“I’ll take 2-under all day, every day,” said the son.

It was a far different story for the father, who was 4-over through six holes, then doubled the seventh. Out in 42, he made just one birdie, finished at 82, and would seem to be destined to miss a Masters cut for a seventh straight April and ninth time in 11 seasons.

Miles apart on the scoreboard, for Craig and Kevin it matters not a bit. Better that they grow close in life.

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