Straka shoots 63 at Barbasol Championship, still gets needled by twin brother
July 20, 2019
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Sepp Straka tied his career low on the PGA TOUR with a third-round 63 at the Barbasol Championship. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. -- Sepp Straka and his twin brother Sam virtually came out of the womb competing against each other.
Ask him, and Sam will be quick to point out that he’s the elder of the two – by all of two minutes. “He’s proud of that, too,” Sepp said, chuckling.
And so, it was on Saturday, after Sepp tied his career low on the PGA TOUR with a 63 that included nine birdies and propelled him into a tie for fifth entering the final round of the Barbasol Championship, that his fraternal twin had to put him in his place.
Sepp had barely finished signing his scorecard and the requisite interviews when Sam called to tell him that he’d nipped him by a shot – shooting a 10-under 62 at Kinderlou Forest back home in Valdosta, Georgia that day.
“He told me, you played great today, but I beat you by one,” Sepp said with a laugh. “… I was like, you’re going to ruin a good day like that for me.”
Sepp and Sam pushed each other in every sport, growing in Vienna, Austria and later in Valdosta. First, it was soccer, where Sam played striker and Sepp was the goalie. When they were 11, though, after a week-long junior golf camp, their focus changed.
“He just kind of decided that we're going to play more golf from that point on,” Sepp recalled. “And then I figured that was the way to go.”
That the brothers would find their way to golf wasn’t really a big surprise. Their mother Mary had gone to Austria with her then-boyfriend, a golf course designer. The romance didn’t work out, but she stayed and was working in a golf shop when she met Peter Straka, the man she would go on to marry.
“Sold him a golf glove in the pro shop and it went from there,” Sepp said matter-of-factly.
When the boys were 14, they moved with their mom to Valdosta to be closer to Mary’s family. Peter, who is an architect, splits time between Georgia and his native Austria. Sepp, who holds dual citizenship and played on the Austrian national junior golf team, tries to get back at least once a year.
While Sepp loves Vienna and misses the food – schnitzel’s his go-to meal – he spent summers when he was a kid in southern Georgia, just outside Moultrie. So, going from Vienna, a cosmopolitan city of 1.8 million, to Valdosta, where the population is just under 60,000, wasn’t as much culture shock as it could have been. Plus, he has no accent – his mother spoke English to the boys and German to her husband.
The brothers both played collegiately at Georgia, with Sepp red-shirting one season. They roomed together and when Sam left, he originally went into real estate. But he’s since turned pro and is now preparing for qualifying school for the Korn Ferry Tour, where Sepp cut his competitive teeth.
“We talk about golf a good bit,” Sepp said. “But he doesn't need a whole lot of advice from me. He kind of knows what my thoughts are on things. If anything, he gets me, he gives me advice. We talk about about all my rounds, all that.
“It's good now that we can talk about his game, too. So yeah, it's been nice.”
Sepp has some work to do of his own.
The 26-year-old came to Kentucky ranked 138th in the FedExCup. Another low round on Sunday in the birdie-fest at the Champion Course at Keene Trace could go a long way toward moving him into the all-important and FedExCup Playoffs-bound top 125 with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
“Can't really think about that,” Sepp said. “It's too much going on to really even figure out where you would be if you did what. So, the key is really just to keep the pedal down and keep making birdies.”
Sam would surely tell his little brother the same.