PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Add Matt Kuchar’s name to the growing list of PGA Tour pros migrating to this stretch along the Atlantic coast in South Florida.
But not for the reason you might think.
Sure, Kuchar is taking advantage of world-class venues, especially at the Bear’s Club where he and his family settled in October. But at 44, and more than two decades on the tour, Kuchar’s motivation was not about furthering his career but the careers of his teenage sons.
“We were looking for higher-level sports,” Kuchar said.
Matt and his wife, Sybi, have two sons, 15-year-old Cameron and 13-year-old Carson. Both are thriving in their sports, but they have taken different paths.
Cameron has followed Dad. Carson wants to be like Mom.
And dad and mom want the best for their boys so they packed up after 12 years on St. Simons Island, Ga. — where Sybi was raised — and headed south.
“We were looking for higher-level sports,” Matt said. “We got great tennis down here and great golf down here.”
And the move means Matt is playing his first home game this week, returning to Honda for the first time since 2011.
The area received a great endorsement from Jay Berger, the father of PGA Tour pro Daniel Berger. Jay played on the ATP Tour, reaching No. 7 in the world, before going into coaching. In 2016, he was the coach for the U.S. Olympic tennis team at Rio de Janeiro.
That also was the Olympics at which Kuchar was golf’s bronze medalist.
“We spent some time with him there,” Matt said. “The tennis world is small, and spending a decent bit of time with him over the years, we’d always pick his brain for when we were on the road if he would recommend facilities.”
And, apparently, coaches.
Jay now is Carson’s tennis coach.
“He wants to be great,” Matt said about Carson. “He’s playing high-level of junior stuff.”
So, too, does Cameron, who mostly is learning from his dad.
“He’s turned into my training partner,” Matt said about his oldest son.
The perfect match
Matt and Sybi met at Georgia Tech. While Matt was named the top collegiate golfer in the country in 1998, Sybi was a standout tennis player. The romance didn’t bloom until they were out of college. They were married in 2003.
“We were very close in school,” Matt once said. “I think both of us were pretty occupied with our sport and with school as well. We would go out and hang out, but not a whole lot of dating.”
Sybi became a tennis instructor after her playing days at Georgia Tech and Matt her mixed doubles partner. They started entering tournaments, and in 2009 they won the consolation title in the USTA National Husband/Wife Doubles Championship at ATP Headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Matt once described his tennis style as “scrappy.” He says he likes to cover the net at all times but added Sybi wears him out from the baseline. Matt was no stranger to the sport before meeting Sybi. His father, Peter Kuchar, was ranked No. 1 in doubles at one time in Florida.
Kuchar is one of the most respected and beloved players on tour. He’s easy to find on the course if you are within earshot of his group.
They are not booing, they are shouting “Kooch.”
Kuchar’s success dates back more than 20 years. His first win on tour was the 2002 Honda Classic. Career highlights include winning The Players Championship in 2012 and being a part of four Ryder Cup teams. He has won more than $56 million on the tour.
Once No. 4 in the world, he enters the week at No. 65, jumping 20 spots after finishing eighth in last week’s Phoenix Open. Kuchar is the oldest player in the top 65 of the world rankings.
“Trying to ramp up,” he said. “And starting to feel really good.”
Matt might be able to sleep in his own bed and drive his own car to a tournament for the first time in his career, but that doesn’t mean the entire Kuchar clan will be walking the fairways and offering their support.
Nope. Matt still is on his own on the golf course.
“They got their own things going,” Kuchar said. “They’re going to school. They’re training. They don’t get to see me live or in person quite as much.”
After all, it’s exactly why Matt and Sybi made the move.