SI Vault
Alan Shipnuck
May 19, 1997
As both a road to the future and a link to the past, golf has helped keep the Kuehne clan together
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May 19, 1997

All In The Family

As both a road to the future and a link to the past, golf has helped keep the Kuehne clan together

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"Me neither, baby," says Kuehne.

When the lecture commences, Humphrey splits his time between daydreaming and flicking his gal's ponytail, while Kuehne, wearing a workout outfit that displays 11 swooshes—a clear reminder that she doesn't need to be there—dutifully scribbles notes for both of them.

This symbiosis is the cause of some concern. With Humphrey anchored to Austin because of football, Kuehne will be seeing less and less of him in the months to come, as she plans to spend more time with Haney in Dallas preparing for October's Q school. She has also begun to play regularly on the Florida-based Futures tour, where she has-a second and a tie for seventh in two starts. "It's going to be hard; we know that," she says. "But we both support what the other is doing. I think love will prevail, but it's something I worry about a lot."

Hearing a lovesick Kuehne, one remembers that she's only 20, a fact that's obscured by her precocity. Eight years ago the Kuehne and Woods families were seated at the head table at an awards banquet when Earl Woods buttonholed Kelli. "Little Princess," he asked, "what's the best part of your game?"

"My mind," she shot back.

That remains the case today. The flip side to such an admission is that Kuehne may not have enough game to become a force on the LPGA, which is becoming increasingly dominated by big hitters. She is neither an overwhelming ball-striker nor a short-game wizard. However, she grew up playing against her brothers. From the same tees.

"It's been half an hour, and you haven't asked me about Tiger yet," says Trip Kuehne. "I'm impressed."

Forgive him if he's a little touchy, because Kuehne is destined to be remembered as the Ralph Branca to Woods's Bobby Thomson. Some say it was the U.S. Amateur final in August 1994 that began the Woods phenomenon, when the skinny 17-year-old stormed back from 5 down on the final 12 holes to win what was, at the time, the most significant victory of his career. Kuehne, despite his otherworldly 66 in the morning round at the diabolical Stadium Course at the TPC at Sawgrass, and despite seven straight clutch pars on the back nine in the afternoon, was sent to the showers a loser.

"It was golf played at the highest level," says Woods, who became fast friends with all the Kuehne kids on the junior golf circuit and is still occasionally the family's houseguest. Calling from the cell phone in his Mercedes 500 SL, Woods adds, "My career changed, and his did too." Woods used the Amateur as a springboard for professional stardom; for Kuehne that day helped convince him that golf should remain his love, not his labor.

"He left it all out there, and it was a devastating loss," says Ernie Kuehne. "He learned for the first time that you can play your best and it might not be good enough. It took a lot of the love of playing golf out of him."

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