By Mark Lamport-Stokes
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) – Craig Stadler is ready for “a very, very cool” experience at this week’s Masters where he and his son Kevin will become the first father-son duo to compete together in the season’s opening major.
Kevin Stadler made it all possible when he won his maiden PGA Tour title at the Phoenix Open in February, and just in time with his father planning to make his final appearance at Augusta National in this year’s edition.
“I can’t think of a better way to do it (make his Masters swansong) than playing with your son in the same tournament,” former champion Craig Stadler told reporters at a rain-drenched Augusta National on Monday with his son sitting by his side.
“It’s awesome. This is a very, very cool thing, and thanks to Kev here, I got back to the (interview) room for the first time in about 20 years. I haven’t been here since it was built, I don’t think.”
The elder Stadler, who won the 1982 Masters along with 12 other titles on the PGA Tour, has taken great satisfaction from watching his son develop into a champion golfer on the U.S. circuit.
“I’m so proud of the way he’s played the last three, four years,” said the 60-year-old, who is affectionately nicknamed “The Walrus” because of his portly build and fulsome moustache.
“He has been close (to winning) a zillion times and finally got it done, so this will be a very special week.
“I’m just going to be out there slashing around, trying to make the cut, and he’s going to be trying to win the golf tournament. It’s going to be a wonderful week for us.”
Kevin, popularly known on the PGA Tour as “The Smallrus,” relishes the prospect of competing in his first Masters along with his father.
“I’m incredibly excited to be here and to play, and it’s going to be really, really fun to be on the inside of the ropes,” grinned the 34-year-old.
“I feel like I know this place pretty well but I’ve never, ever played it (in competition). So it’s going to be a blast. Just don’t really know what I’m getting myself into but it’s going to be really enjoyable.”
Asked when he first realized the significance of his father’s Masters victory, the younger Stadler replied: “I was two years old when he won it, so he was always Masters champion when I was a kid.
“It was just kind of a tag line that he earned when I was too young to recognize it. And obviously it was cool (for him) to be able to come here and play for as long as he wants the rest of his life, that’s pretty special.”
Kevin Stadler, who won the European Tour’s Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia in 2006 and four titles on the lower-tier Nationwide Tour, has fond memories of watching his father compete at Augusta National.
“It was great for me to be able to tag along and walk around here,” he said. “I couldn’t wait for April every year, when I was a kid, to come out here and just run rampant around the golf course. It was what I got the most enjoyment out of when I was a kid.”
(Editing by Frank Pingue)