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Ask anybody who knows and they’ll tell you it’s one of the greatest days of your life.

A unique, one-of-a-kind experience, full of romance, which completely exceeds your childhood dreams and which has been known to reduce grown men to tears.

But enough about your first visit to The Masters. Weddings are fun, too.

They’re even more fun if you find a way to incorporate the first men’s major of the season into them. That’s what Matt Ziance and Kate Stringfellow did when they tied the knot on July 3, 2022.

Pennsylvania-born Matt and Kate, from New Canaan, Connecticut, met through the dating app Hinge in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As fate would have it, Kate was contemplating deleting the app from her phone whilst Matt was planning on moving back home to Johnstown.

His lease on his Connecticut apartment was expiring and he had been placed on ‘work from home’ status for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, with nothing to lose, they arranged to go on a date on June 6, 2020. After dropping Kate back at hers, Matt called his mum on his way back to his apartment. “Hey mum,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to be moving back home after all.”

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Since then, the couple have spent nearly every day with each other and, on January 1, 2021, they moved in together.

One of the things they bonded over was golf. Matt describes himself as “an average adult golfer at best”. He’s has been playing for the last 22 years but only really started taking it seriously in the last five to six years. He was almost late for their first date because, of course, he’d been playing golf.

“There’s something about the game I just can’t get enough of,” he explains. “It was very clear from the beginning of our relationship that I spend a lot of time at the course, and Kate wanted to learn how to play so we could take on 18 together.”

Never one to shirk a challenge, Kate signed up for a few lessons at the local public course and, within a few weeks, after plenty of late night range sessions, she was ready to hit the course. On October 10, 2021, they booked a same-day tee time at Oak Hills Park Golf Course in Norwalk. The third hole there is a 114-yard par-3. Kate grabbed her 7-iron, stepped up… and promptly holed-out for an ace. It was only her sixth ever round.

“If there was any doubt in my mind – and there wasn’t – that day confirmed for me that Kate was my person and my golf-partner for life,” adds Matt. Almost immediately, he began to make plans for asking Kate to marry him.

In April 2021, he went out to the shops to buy a new sleeve of golf balls. Instead, he returned a few hours later with an engagement ring. “If you know me, you know that I’m terrible with keeping secrets and can’t contain my excitement when gifts are involved,” he laughs.

“From middle school through college, I would always find Christmas and birthday presents, open them and then re-wrap.

It’s even worse when I am giving gifts. I normally end up telling recipients about their Christmas presents around Halloween. I’m not a fan of waiting.”

But wait he did. He decided to put off proposing until August 23, a special day for the Ziance family. His parents were married on that day in 1986. Matt himself was born on it in 1990. Finally, after an elaborate set-up that involved taking Kate on a fake work trip to Nashville, enlisting the support of country star Spencer Crandall and (naturally) playing a round of golf at the Hermitage Golf Club in Tennessee, Matt popped the question. Fortunately, Kate said yes.

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“I went to Nashville with my girlfriend,” says Matt, “and came back home with my fiancée.” And that’s when the fun truly began.

“I get asked all the time how I was able to convince my better-half to allow a Masters-inspired wedding and, truthfully, that’s not the case at all,” he adds. “This was 100% a joint decision.

“We initially considered going to Town Hall but agreed that if we had a ceremony and reception, that it would be a solid experience for everyone in attendance. We really wanted to personalise it, without any of the typical wedding day BS. We wanted a personalised ceremony, a great party for our closest friends and family and of course, our favourite thing: golf.”

One of the first items on their agenda was creating a logo. They went through a few different versions before settling on their own take on the Augusta National Golf Club emblem.

Next up: music.

“Lucky for us, Kate and I live above the church we got married in and our congregation has Terry Flanagan, one of the best music directors around,” adds Matt. “He discovered the sheet music for the Masters theme tune and played a wonderful rendition on the piano as I walked down the aisle with my parents.”

As things started to take shape, the couple continued to find fun new ways to incorporate the Masters into their wedding. One of those was having ‘Masters Caddies’ play a part of the ceremony.

“This is where our niece and nephews enter the chat,” laughs Matt. “The three boys, with ‘ZIANCE’ nameplates on their mini caddie uniforms, made sensational ‘Ring Caddies’ while our beautiful flower girl stole the show, scattering rose petals from a custom range bucket filled with balls and custom tees.”

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As the day drew closer, Matt had a wild idea and reached out to Jim Nantz, the long-standing and iconic host of Masters television coverage in the US. He explained their unique wedding plans and asked Nantz if he would be willing to send a video message for them to use to welcome their guests.

The next day, he opened his email inbox to find a reply from Nantz with a video 20-second video attached. As it began to play, Matt couldn’t believe his eyes and ears.

“Hello, friends. It’s Jim Nantz. I have the great honour of welcoming the newlyweds. Now, join me, let’s put our hands together and welcome this wonderful couple, Kate and Matt Ziance. Have a lifetime of happiness.” The video rolled as Matt and Kate entered the reception.

“My mind is still blown this happened,” says Matt. “Having golf broadcasting royalty kick off our wedding was the perfect way to start the best night ever.”

Following Nantz’ intro, Matt was helped into a custom green jacket before the couple grabbed their putters and attempted to hole a lengthy putt along the wooden floorboards. “Did I miss the putt?” says Matt. “Sure did. But I won the day.”

From custom ‘Hello, friends’ dinner menus to an illuminated neon sign, cornhole boards and bags, table-hole flags, a ‘Green Jacket’ seating chart, a golf flag guest book, a golf-themed tie and custom gear for the after-party, the Ziances made sure their reception was exactly what they wanted.

They also had a cookie table – a Pennsylvania wedding tradition – which Matt’s mum spent several months creating. “There were over 5,000 cookies in total,” explains Matt. “Many of them were golf-themed and those that weren’t had a ‘Masters’ card labelling each different style. It was amazing.”

It all added up to a wedding unlike any other. All that remains now is for the couple to actually attend the Masters together. “Yeah,” smiles Matt. “That would be pretty sweet.”

This article first appeared in issue 197 of bunkered. For our latest subscription offer, click here.

Photos courtesy of Taylor Kemp

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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