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Triple Digits

Golfer Dudley Hart is more concerned about keeping up with his newborn triplets, who arrived premature, than with going on birdie binges

June 16, 2002|STEVEN WINE | ASSOCIATED PRESS

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Pro golfer Dudley Hart answers his front door holding a baby.

Behind him, where the spotless living room looks out onto a swimming pool, it's as quiet as a Masters gallery. But in the family room, there are signs of life--lots of it.

A large pile of tiny clothes covers the coffee table. There are three car seats, three baby rockers and three clipboards for Hart's wife, Suzanne, to record feeding times and diaper changes.

"We have three of everything," Hart says.

They have triplets.

Hart is one of the top golfers on the PGA Tour, and this Father's Day, he'll be playing with a threesome--Abigail Grace, Rachel Diane and Ryan Dudley. Born three months premature on Dec. 6, they were released from the hospital 11 weeks later, and the babies and mom are doing fine.

So is dad, who already has three top-10 finishes this year--at Atlanta, New Orleans and Fort Worth. Going into this weekend's U.S. Open, he ranked 31st on the PGA Tour money list with $899,542, which will buy a lot of diapers.

"That's why I played well the past few weeks--out of necessity," Hart jokes. "Nah, I wouldn't say there's more pressure, but there's definitely extra motivation.

"I get more focused because I figure if I'm out there and play well and make the best of the time, maybe I won't have to play quite as many tournaments, so I can be home a little more."

Genial and easygoing away from the course, Hart the golfer has been known for a quick temper since he was a club-flinging teenager. But his father, Chuck, says parenthood is helping Dudley's career by teaching him patience and a new perspective.

At the Colonial last month, he finished fourth despite three double bogeys and a triple bogey.

"In his past few events, what we've seen is he's not beating up on himself quite so badly," Chuck Hart says. "A year ago, a triple bogey in the second round would have sent him home--he would have missed the cut. But he's taking that kind of stuff more in stride, because all of a sudden, something is more important than golf."

Hart, 33, admits the challenge of raising triplets is less daunting for a successful professional golfer. The Rochester, N.Y., native and former Florida Gator has finished in the top 60 on the money list each of the last six years, and his career earnings total $6.6 million.

"That's one thing I thank God for every day--it was never really a concern about money," Hart says. "We're lucky that we don't really have to worry about that."

The Harts have a spacious two-story home, a daytime nanny, a nighttime nurse and a maid once a week. Because of a marketing relationship, they receive Similac infant formula free, a savings of thousands of dollars.

Still, the transition from two Harts to a full house required an adjustment, especially for Dudley, who had never changed a diaper. The days can become a bit of a blur, but it helps that Suzanne keeps copious records of diaper changes, medication and meals.

"I had to because I forget--who did I just feed?" she says.

The couple knew there was a chance of a multiple birth because they used an in-vitro procedure. Hart was on the road in July when Suzanne saw her doctor to find out how many children to expect.

After completing the first round at the Western Open, Hart phoned home for a report.

"I was very anxious to know if we were going to have one, two, three, four, five, six or however many," Hart says. "The conversation went like this: I said, 'Honey, how many?' She said, 'We have three.' I said, 'Oh my God. I'll call you back.' Click.

"I was totally shocked. I played great that week, but I didn't sleep two hours a night. I just stared at the ceiling thinking, 'I know it's going to be three girls, because I wasn't the best boy in the world going through college, so this will be payback. That's three weddings, three private schools, three college educations--how are we going to do all this?' "

The shock subsided and Hart was delighted when tests determined one of the babies was a boy.

"I said, 'Everything after that is gravy. I've got my little man in there, and I've got two beautiful girls,' " Hart says. "Three girls would have been serious stress."

The triplets are fraternal, which means they don't look alike. And their personalities are already distinct:

Abigail, the smallest, is easygoing and such a flirt that even Sergio Garcia has been smitten. "He came up and she smiled and he said, 'OK, I'll take my girlfriend,' " Suzanne says.

Rachel likes to have her head up so she can see what's going on. "She's more maintenance," Dudley says.

Ryan tends to get teed off. "He seems to have inherited the Hart temper," Dudley says. "When he's hungry, he screams, and he is loud. He's got this vein on his head that looks like it's going to pop: 'Feed me immediately. Not in 10 seconds. Now!' "

Because they were premature, each weighing about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds at birth, the triplets are weeks behind in their development.

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