Drive to Succeed

Sophomore Matt Kuchar is already the nation's top amateur-with plenty of holes to go

By Hoyt Coffee

The Havemayer Trophy is engraved with history. Etched into the gleaming gold of the nation's oldest golfing prize are such names as Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus- and, of course, Georgia Tech legend Bobby Jones.

This year another Tech name was inscribed there. Not so well known as his predecessors, but then, he's just a sophomore, Matt Kuchar entered the pantheon of U.S. Amateur champions in August, defeating Tiger Woods' former Stanford teammate Joel Kribel to become the 97th owner of the coveted trophy.

"Every time I see it, I just stare at my name and can't believe that it's on the trophy," said Kuchar, a 19-year-old management major. "I've probably gone over the names two dozen times. I think I've probably almost memorized them. But every time I get it, I go down the list of names and recite off who's on them. It's pretty incredible."

Thanks to the win, Kuchar's star-struck days are just beginning. Champion status grants him a tee time in the U.S. and British opens, and he'll follow again in Jones' footsteps--"I couldn't ask for any better shoes to try and fit into," he said-at the Masters next year. And as tradition dictates, he'll be defending champion Tiger Woods' partner at Augusta National.

"Every once in a while, I'll be going about my daily activities, and I'll just go blank," he said. "All I'll think about is Augusta. I can't concentrate on anything from just dreaming about playing at Augusta."

As is always true, getting to Augusta is no easy task. But it's a goal Kuchar has entertained since he was a gangly teenager flirting with the junior circuit. Tall, lean and naturally athletic, Kuchar participated in a variety of sports while growing up in Florida, often in tandem with his father, Peter Kuchar, who was his caddie during the U.S. Amateur.

"I followed my dad into whatever he did," Kuchar said. "He was the captain of his college tennis team at Stetson and competed in tennis up through the 35-and- over age group. So I competed in a lot of tennis as a junior. And then he was coach of my soccer team, so of course I played soccer. "Then, the Christmas before my seventh-grade year, my mom upgraded our tennis membership to the full tennis and golf, so we just went out a gave it a try. We both got hooked." In high school Kuchar excelled on and off the links. He was the Central Florida player of the year in 1995 and 1996, and he was named a Smith-Corona Scholastic all-American in 1994. Inducted into the National Honor Society, Kuchar was a four-time all-conference and all-district selection, and a Rolex junior all-American in 199 and 1995. By the time graduation rolled around, athletics and academics weighed equally in his choice of a college.

"I narrowed down my choices to Georgia Tech, Florida and Duke, and when I came on my official visit here, I just got that special feeling that this place was right for me," Kuchar said. "I'm really happy with my choice." Indeed, so is Bruce Heppler, coach of the nation's top-ranked golf squad at Tech, who said Kuchar emerged as a leader as a freshman.

"He's a very energetic, very upbeat, outgoing, fun- loving guy," Heppler said. "His attitude does a tremendous amount of good for the team."

As a freshman, Kuchar was the Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year and made the ACC Academic Honor Roll. He was named a third team all- American by the Golf Coaches Association of America and became the first Yellow Jacket since Larry Mize in 1978 to compete individually at the NCAA Championships.

"I took a huge step up, going from my senior year in high school to my freshman year here," Kuchar said. "I became a much better player. I think it's because of the strenuous demands that are put on you at Georgia Tech. I had to grow up so much so fast.

"I think it made me a better player. When I was out on the golf course, I wasn't just messing around; I was really out there to try to get something accomplished."

While lucky that his avocation likely will become his vocation--Kuchar and his father decided to wait and see how he competes at the next level before deciding whether he'll turn pro, though the lure is obvious-there's still that little matter of earning a college degree, no cake walk for anyone at Tech and a special challenge for those committed to a time- consuming sport. But Kuchar exhibits a maturity beyond his years in his approach to time management.

"It is tough to manage, especially this year-now that I have to balance playing Bay Hill, playing the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open," he said. "I'm really in a juggling act right now trying to balance my schedule."

And there's that one other thing Kuchar wants to do before he seriously considers the PGA Tour.

"Right now, my goal is just to win a national championship for Georgia Tech. We've got the team to do it this year."

Miss USA Georgia Edlyn Lewis

Tech senior takes poise of life lessons to the pageant

By Shawn Jenkins

Ellyn Lewis knows the value of mentors. As the first AfricanAmerican to represent the state of Georgia in the Miss USA contest, she hopes to show the impact mentors have had on her I i fe.

The Georgia Tech senior and electrical engineering major from Mobile, Ala., won the Miss Georgia crown in Atlanta Oct. 5 and will compete for Miss USA on March 10.

A past president of the African-American Stud ent Union and a member of the undergraduate judiciary committee, Lewis has been active in the Office of Minority Education Development and has coordinated activities for the Techwood Outreach Program.

"I would go and talk to schools and encourage students to get involved in the programs, to help out other younger students," she said. "When I go over to Techwood, I stress 'education, education, education."'

Her admonitions to the children aren't empty rhetoric; they're based on her own experience. "I came to Georgia Tech a long time ago, in 1989," she said. "I was about two quarters from graduation when I dropped out, due mainly to financial reasons. It didn't hit home until I took that time off- and I'm working hard and I don't have a degree-that there's only so far you can go."

Since then, Lewis has gone far. She founded and coordinated the Georgia Tech Human Interactive Tutor Program, which is a long-term program that establishes mentoring relationships with second- and third- grade students and prepares them for the Georgia Basic Skills Test.

Lewis isn't just an example for Atlanta's youth. When she vies for the Miss USA crown in March, she will have the eyes of the African- American community on her. "I try not to focus on it," she said. "But it's hard not to. In a. way, it's a little bit of extra pressure because I know that many people are looking that much closer-at me. The only thing I can do is just do my best. I'm going to do the same thing other girls have done-just work and try to do the best I can once I get there."

Lewis credits friend and Tech alumna Robin Wilson for her involvement in pageants. "I saw her, and she was very active in pageants; she was very involved in the community-and she was getting a Georgia Tech degree. So she was kind of a role model," Lewis said. "We were sitting around in the student center, and Robin was talking about entering the Miss Fulton County pageant. The funny part was, she talked me into entering, we both competed in Miss Fulton County, and, of course, she won; I didn't even place. But I did it again the next year and won."

Should she win the Miss USA crown, Lewis would receive a prize package worth about $170,000 and the chance to compete for the Miss Universe title.

As if her duties as Miss Georgia, role model and Tech student weren't enough, Lewis is working on two books, one of which chronicles the experiences of a young woman getting through college. Lewis doesn't have an ending for it yet. "I need to graduate from school first," she said.