Like Walrus, like sonKevin Stadler proving to be a chip off the old block on the Nationwide Tour
By ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun
The best story in golf this year has nothing to do with Phil Mickelson, Stephen Ames, Meg Mallon or anyone else on the PGA or LPGA tours.
It has to do with a 24-year-old Walrus Pup named Kevin Stadler, who waddled onto the pro golf scene in his famous father Craig's shadow four weeks ago and has since set records for early dominance.
The former USC standout won his second Nationwide Tour event in just his fourth career start Sunday after he outlasted three challengers in a playoff with a birdie on the third extra hole.
Coupled with a win two weeks earlier, when he converted a sponsor's exemption into his first career win, Stadler eclipsed Dick Mast's record of two wins in six starts in 1990.
"It still hasn't sunk in from two weeks ago," said Stadler, who needed a dramatic birdie on the last hole of regulation to get into the playoff.
"To win one was beyond my expectations but to win two is beyond words. The last four weeks have been incredible, to say the least."
Having twice failed to advance past the first round of PGA Tour qualifying school, Stadler was unsure where he'd ply his trade this year, declaring he'd likely pursue a spot on an obscure southern regional loop no Calgarian has ever heard of.
However, suddenly wielding the hottest swing in golf, Stadler has not only started making a name for himself on the Nationwide Tour but on the PGA Tour as well.
He garnered headlines by qualifying for the U.S. Open and making the cut. He also caught the golf world's attention early in the year when he fired a 64 to snag the first-round lead at the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, where his father won 10 years earlier.
He wound up making his first cut in five PGA Tour tries that week.
When asked about seeing Kevin Stadler atop the scoreboard, Tiger Woods did a double take.
"Kevin? I thought it was Craig," said Woods, who sat seven strokes behind the budding star.
The Stadler name has been a prominent one in golf for decades thanks to his father's trademark waddle, which earned him the nickname The Walrus. Loved for displaying both the emotion and waistline of the average American hacker, Craig won 13 PGA Tour events, including the 1982 Masters.
Now faring well on the Champions (Senior's) Tour, no victory was sweeter for Pops than the one two weeks ago, when the 51-year-old claimed the Bank of America Championship before rushing into the scorer's tent to watch Kevin break through at the Lake Erie Charity Classic with a shocking playoff win.
Dad called it the proudest day of his career.
It marked the second time in golf history a father and son both won PGA Tour-sponsored events on the same day.
The other duo to pull it off was David and Bob Duval, who claimed a regular Tour win and Senior's win respectively in 1999.
A delicious irony lands father and son in the same tourney this week for the B.C. Open, which Craig Stadler won last year.
It could be a zoo if the two Walruses land in the same pairing Sunday.
"I kind of feel from certain people that they think I'm playing because of my dad," said the pudgy 5-ft. 10-in., 210-lb. Kevin, who trudges around the course just like his father.
"But that's the way it is right now. I just need to make my own way out here."
That's exactly what he's doing -- 11th on the Nationwide money list (top 20 earn PGA Tour cards the following year) and just one win away from a Battlefield Promotion, propelling him onto the big tour immediately.
Blessed with exemptions to PGA tourneys the next two weeks, Kevin may just play himself out of an appearance in Bragg Creek Aug. 19-22 when the Nationwide Tour returns for the Calgary Classic at Redwood Meadows.
Perhaps it's meant to be. Stadler isn't even listed among the Nationwide Tour's website bios yet.
No wonder dad is so proud.