Craig Stadler: His Own Man

For 30 years there's been a two-word rebuttal to those who think pro golfers are all tall, blond and bland: Craig Stadler. One of sport's most recognizable figures — with one of the great nicknames — the fiery Walrus looks more like a guy who fixes sinks than one who makes millions on the links. Fans first noticed his now-famous temper at the 1982 Masters, when he snarled his way to the green jacket (a snug size 46). Since last June, Stadler has starred on the Champions Tour, where he won three of his first 14 events (plus the 2003 B.C. Open, his 13th PGA Tour title). He also got into trouble earlier this year, when he was arrested in Michigan for allegedly drinking and driving. ("It was a DUI," he says. "It was an OWI — operating while impaired. I was stopped for making an incorrect left turn.") An embarrassed Walrus made a public apology.

Stadler's bulky body, handsy swing and take-me-or-leave-me attitude have endeared him to a large bloc of fans (and a bloc of large fans). He favors Wilbur Smith adventure novels ("We can't all be intellectuals") and likes a glass of bold cabernet. But the 51-year-old is no wine snob, as he showed when he sat down for a talk and a beer or two.


You love to hunt. What's your game of choice?


Speaking of shooting, lately your aim's been true on the course. In 2003 you became the second player to win on the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour in the same year, and you've been hot in 2004. What gives?




After your Masters win, your most memorable moment was when a viewer busted you for kneeling on a towel at the 1987 Andy Williams Open and got you DQ'd for building a stance. Should fans be allowed to call in?





Before 2003, your best season was 1982, when you won four times, including The Masters. How would the 51-year-old Walrus do against the 28-year-old Walrus?
Otra cerveza! [Stadler's longtime caddie, Jeff Dolf, fetches his boss another Bud Light.]



Today's balls are mostly low-spinning, but you like to cut it.




You dropped 60 pounds in 2000, but your game suffered.

Everybody says that, but at my lightest I played well and got beat in a playoff [at the Shell Houston Open]. It's difficult losing weight, and I gained it back. I may be overweight now, but I could climb mountains for 10 straight days and not get winded.





You roomed with Scott Simpson at USC in the 1970s.




What did you drive to Tour events in the old days?
and



You and your wife, Sue, have been married for 25 years. How have you held it together?
[laughs]



To exotic stops like Hawaii?


Lucky her. On the subject of family, your son Kevin is trying to earn his Tour card this year, and he's played well. [On the same day in June, Craig and Kevin won on the Champions and Nationwide tours, respectively.] Have you offered him any words of wisdom?


Moving right along...your interests go beyond golf — you invested in some horses a few years back.




You're a wine connoisseur. How do you rate David Frost's and Greg Norman's wines?




You recently built a new house near Denver. Does it have a big wine cellar?




How did you get into wine?

It started in the '70s when I played a tournament in Napa. [Former Tour pro] Woody Blackburn and his wife came out with Sue and me, and we stayed at a friend's house. We'd have elaborate wine tastings — line up 40 different chardonnays and rate them from one to 10. I knew whites pretty well. About five years ago I started enjoying reds. I bought a few cases and started comparing notes with Jeff Sluman. Now I've got 100 cases of wine.





You've been critical of the media for focusing on the negative.

You guys have a job to do, but your personal feelings affect it. I've bitched at [

USA Today



How so?
awesome



Do you get sick of being interviewed?




Recently, after a 16-year relationship, Spalding chose not to renew your contract. What happened?
[He makes a graphic gesture with his right hand.]

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