The Good Guys: Nicest Players on the PGA Tour
by Pete Pappas
No player walks on to the PGA Tour and immediately has the respect and admiration of fans and other players. Yes, the Tour will always have its villains and guys who can give you a rash in a heartbeat, but to be one of the “good guys” you have to prove you can handle your business the right way. Tournament and money standings aside, the unifying characteristic all these players have in common is never losing sight of what’s important, no matter how popular or successful they become. Here are five good guys on Tour whose hard work, character, and humility put them a cut above the rest.
Rickie Fowler might be the most approachable player on Tour and genuinely cares for his fans – especially the young ones. Need an example? Six years ago at The Memorial Tournament, Fowler was suffering from post-round heat exhaustion and had to stop his autograph session shortly after getting started. No one would have blamed Rickie for packing it in considering how sick he was. Instead, he told the fans he needed 15 minutes to catch his breath, and then he’d come back to sign for everyone. And he did.
Last season at the Quicken Loans National Pro-Am, Fowler reunited an army dad (who served as his caddie) with his children after a four-year absence. Later in the year Rickie played golf with a man battling pancreatic cancer, and then dedicated his win at the Hero World Challenge to that man after his passing. Fowler doesn’t do things because the camera is on him. What he does comes from the heart.
Justin Rose is one of the good guys on Tour for a simple reason: he’s nice to everyone. Rose is genuinely interested in fans having a good time, and he has the uncanny ability to recognize faces and call you by name (even if he just met you one time at an event on Tour). I learned this personally when he remembered me and called me by name at the BMW Championship two years ago while signing autographs. There’s not an ounce of phoniness to Justin.
Rose has blossomed into one of the game’s best players by remaining humble and showing sportsmanship every step of the way. Justin missed 21 straight cuts to start his professional career and went almost an entire year without a paycheck. He never complained. Almost 20 years later Rose was gutted after his playoff loss to Sergio Garcia in the 2017 Masters, but never displayed anything other than pure class. Rose is a gentleman in a gentleman’s game, and proof that nice guys do finish first.
The most touching good guy stories never begin with a request from a sponsor, but rather, when something was a player’s idea no one else knew about. And it doesn’t get more touching than what Kevin Streelman did at the Par-3 Contest at The Masters three years ago. Streelman contacted the Make-A-Wish foundation to find out if any children wanted to attend The Masters when he heard about a 13-year-old with an inoperable brain tumor. Kevin did one better, and invited the young boy to be his caddie for the contest.
You can’t fake being genuine, and Streelman walks the course every week completely free of arrogance or pretension. When people throw money and fame at you it can be easy to let things go to your head, but Kevin’s always been one of those players who just gets it. Streelman’s next-door neighbor demeanor makes him one of those most fan-friendly golfers out there, and he knows that giving back is what it’s all about. Solid golfer, even better guy. And oh, by the way, Streelman and his young caddie won the Par-3 Contest.
If there was a checklist for what it takes to be a good guy on Tour, Matt Kuchar would check off all the boxes. Arguably the nicest guy on Tour, Kuchar never looks bothered, and his aw-shucks, darn-it personality makes him a favorite among fans and fellow players alike. Kuchar is friendly with everyone, from the fans and volunteers to locker room attendants and courtesy car drivers. He’ll sign autographs after a round until every last fan request is met, and he does it all, always with a smile.
It’s Matt’s heart of gold however that truly sets him apart. Kuchar and his wife are actively involved with Camp Twin Lakes, an organization that provides therapeutic camping experiences for children with serious illnesses, disabilities, and other life challenges. For most of the kids, it’s a home away from home and teaches them to overcome obstacles while creating shared experiences with others who face similar challenges. For Kuchar, it’s a way to give back and inspire, something he’s done instinctively all his life.
One story about Tony Finau is all you need to hear to know he’s one of the good guys on Tour and the kind of person you naturally want to root for. In 2016 while playing in the Dean and Deluca Invitational, one of Finau’s drives hit a spectator on the head, and immediately needed stitches. After the round, Tony found out who the young woman was and showed up at her parents’ house with flowers, chocolates, and a get-well card. Forget for a moment Finau had a new fan for life, this is just the kind of character Tony is and has always been.
And then there’s the Tony Finau Foundation, an organization funded by a percentage of his winnings that go towards helping underprivileged kids in Rose Park. Each year, Tony visits six elementary schools in his old neighborhood to show the kids you don’t have to come from a lot to make your dreams come true. Tony features himself as a live 6-foot-4 show and tell, inspiring kids to dream big and dream often. Finau’s journey to stardom has always balanced golf, family, and helping others, and his ability to remain humble in this look-at-me generation of sports culture makes him not only a good guy role model but also a great ambassador for the sport.