Teenage golfer Kelli Kuehne has almost as many nicknames as she has golf clubs. Her friends at Highland Park (Texas) High School alternately call her Punky and Scrappy. Her coach, who is the school's astronomy teacher, calls her Little Dipper. She is also known as Killer because she has been knocking off her opponents with stunning regularity.
In fact the 17-year-old senior, who is favored to win the national Rolex Junior Classic in Tucson next week, is a perfect 17-0 in high school competition—a record that gives new meaning to the phrase shooting one's age. Kelli also redefines the phrase baby boomer. At only 5'3" and 120 pounds, the pint-sized prodigy drives the ball 230 to 240 yards with a swing that is fluid and so repetitive that it is almost robotic.
Although in many ways Kelli is a typical teenager whose hobbies are shopping and collecting stuffed animals, on the golf course her competitive fires are almost always stoked. "I stare at them," she says about her Will Clark-like focus on other players during a tournament. "I wait till they look up, and I don't turn away. I want them to know that I don't think they can beat me." Bambi, meet Clint Eastwood.
All year long, Kelli, whose older brother Trip lost a memorable U.S. Amateur final to Tiger Woods in August, has been proving that she can't be beat. She won individual honors in a rain-shortened Texas Class 4A high school championship in May, shooting an astounding nine-under-par 67-32 over 27 holes at the Jimmy Clay golf course in Austin. Two months later she won medalist honors on her way to taking the U.S. Girls' Junior championship at Meadow Lark Country Club in Great Falls, Mont.
Kelli, who will attend Texas next year, has been able to accomplish all this in spite of the fact that she has juvenile diabetes. The disease was diagnosed when she was 10 years old, and Kelli has been giving herself insulin shots twice a day for the past seven years. Her mother, Pam, gave her the shots for the first two weeks, until Kelli, then a fifth-grader, took over the chore, saying, "Heck, if it hurts this much, I'm going to do it myself."
Now it's her opponents who are hurting.
Freshman Tiger Woods and his top-ranked Stanford team fell back to earth—at least for a moment—last week at the Golf World/Palmetto Dunes Collegiate tournament in Hilton Head. After rounds of 70 and 66 on the par 72 Arthur Hills course, Woods made a quadruple-bogey 8 on the 17th hole and shot 80 on the final day to tumble from first to 13th place in the three-round event. "He's human," Cardinal senior Steve Burdick said of the theretofore invincible Woods.
The No. 1-ranked Cardinal, which had won two of the other four tournaments it entered this fall, also lost its lead in the final round, and it finished second, behind Oklahoma State. The Cowboys' Chris Tidland was medalist with a 70-68-70—208.
Losing to Oklahoma State is no disgrace. The Cowboys have all five starters—including Kelli Kuehne's brother Trip—back from a '93-94 team that won eight tournaments and had five players make at least honorable-mention All-America. When this year's squad arrived at Palmetto Dunes, it had already won two tournaments and was ranked second in the country, behind Stanford.