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
"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
"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
"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
to do before he
now, my goal
is just to win
for Georgia Tech.
We've got the team
to do it this year."
Miss USA Georgia
Tech senior takes poise of life lessons to the
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,
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
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.