Matt Kuchar, sprawled in a chair in his family's Lake Mary, Fla., home, is also questioning the price of success. "Lately I've been thinking about disguises, wigs," he says. "Becoming the Matt Kuchar nobody knows."
Has he considered frowning? The patented grin spreads across Kuchar's face, as reflexive as a sneeze. He is half a foot taller than he looks on television, but no less amiable. "Don't get me wrong," he says. "I enjoy the attention I get. It's fun, and you never know how long it's going to last."
Change is on the mind of the Georgia Tech junior. His mother and father have put the house up for sale, and Kuchar looks wistful as he strolls under the moss-draped oaks with Hogan, his 14-month-old chocolate Labrador retriever.
Already he is congratulating himself for the move hedidn't make in '98—turning pro. "Sports seem to have taken a turn that doesn't appeal to me," he says. "It's all money, money. People aren't doing things for the right reasons."
Not that Kuchar didn't come within a whisker of selling out. His success in the majors (even par over four rounds at the Masters and a strong 14th at the U.S. Open) and his telegenic looks had companies lining up with endorsement offers. "I talked to a million agents and vendors," says Peter Kuchar, Matt's father, caddie and counselor. "Matt couldn't be bought."
Cynics will say that the offers, from a slumping golf equipment industry, simply weren't good enough. Kuchar, a business major, says it was more a case of wanting to stay in school and needing to work more on his game. "I've been fortunate to see how the pros shoot low scores even on their off days," he says. "I need to be able to shoot par no matter how I'm playing."
Kuchar's demeanor certainly needs little work. He comes off as the neighbor boy looking for yard work, but actually he's a relentless competitor. ("I think I've faked out a lot of people," he admits.) His play-with-a-smile approach combines his father's aggressiveness with his mother Meg's insistence on good sportsmanship.
The media seems ready to typecast Kuchar as the pro from Pleasantville. "He's so approachable," his father marvels. "Ten-year-olds go up to get Matt's autograph, and it's like they're meeting Santa Claus."
Or Shaq. The day before Thanksgiving, Kuchar went up to dunk on his driveway hoop and pulled down everything—rim, backboard and pole. "I don't know how I did that," he says, staring at the fallen apparatus. Like most of what he says, his words hide the essence of Matt Kuchar. He is, beneath the genial surface, a young man who absolutely knows his own strength.
For Jenny Chuasiriporn, the lure of the tour was resistible. Yes, finishing second to Se Ri Pak in a playoff at the Women's Open forced her to think about a pro career, but getting her psychology degree from Duke came first. "The pro lifestyle would not have made me happy," she says. "I would have wanted to be with my friends at school."