Kevin Stadler waited almost a decade to earn a spot in the field at the Masters Tournament, an event he has been attending with his father since age 2.
Over his first official 18 holes, the 34-year-old American outplayed his dad, the 1982 champion, to find himself near the lead early in golf’s first major tournament of the year.
“I was little nervous on the first tee,” Kevin Stadler, who shot 2-under 70, told reporters after the round. “I hit a pretty poor tee shot. I kind of whiffed it out there, but I was happy to get it under way.”
He is two shots behind leader Bill Haas of the U.S., as play continued in Augusta, Georgia.
The Stadlers are the first father-and-son pair to play in the same Masters, continuing their link through the sport.
In 2004, the father won a 50-and-over Champions Tour event the same day his son won on the developmental Nationwide Tour. The father and son traveled together during the early part of Craig’s career and have played in other father-and-son tournaments. Both played collegiate golf at the University of Southern California.
As the younger Stadler went over the details of his first Masters round, his 60-year-old father toiled on a 7,435-yard course. Craig, nicknamed “The Walrus” for his 5-foot-10, 250-pound physique and bushy mustache, hasn’t made the tournament’s 36-hole cut since 2007.
He ended today with a 10-over-par 82, matching his worst score in 117 Masters rounds.
“I played like a moron,” he said. “I actually hit a lot of decent shots, I just 3-putted five or six times or missed a green and made bogey, and it added up to a heck of a lot. It was ugly.”
As a former champion, Craig is allowed to bring a guest to the club to play and asked his son to join him about 10 years ago. Kevin declined, instead telling his dad that he wanted to earn his way onto the course.
“I thought that was a pretty good answer,” the father said.
The two had played the course once together before the son turned professional. On that February day, about 15 years ago, the conditions were much different.
“It was borderline snowing,” Kevin said. “That was the only time I had been here before last weekend to play.”
Kevin, who is also 5-foot-10, 250 pounds and strolls the fairways with the same gait as his father, had 239 PGA Tour starts before notching his first win two months ago. He had a chance to earn a Masters spot in 2009 when he lost in a playoff to Ryan Moore at the Wyndham Championship. He waited five more years before finally breaking through with his first win, defeating 2012 Masters winner Bubba Watson and Graham DeLaet of Canada in a playoff in Phoenix.
That victory led the duo to this week.
“It’s wonderful to be a dad, to be his dad,” Craig said before the tournament began. “I get people every week, every other week that say, I saw your boy at Phoenix or at Muirfield and what a great kid. Everything I have ever heard about Kevin on the golf course is positive from everybody. As a dad, you can’t get any better than that.”
Playing in a group with 1991 Masters winner Ian Woosnam, Kevin began his day 16 minutes after Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, who have combined to win 13 Masters titles, hit the ceremonial opening tee shots.
“I’ve watched this tournament on TV for 30 years,” Kevin said. “And to be standing there on the first tee getting ready to play, it was a pretty cool experience.”