"At that point in my life I didn't care whether I lived or died," says Kuehne. "I really didn't. I was a waste of human life, a piece of s—-, really. Honestly, at times I thought it would be good just to get rid of me so I wouldn't have to deal with any of this anymore, and my family wouldn't have to deal with me."
Something remarkable has happened in the two years since Kuehne's life crashed. He has reclaimed himself and his family as well. Along the way he has found salvation in the game that for so long bedeviled him. "My passion and happiness in life is golf," he says. Says Trip, "Henry has traded one addiction for another."
As a child, as now, Hank was an exceptional athlete and extremely bright, yet he never seemed to live up to expectations. "I knew I was different from [Trip and Kelli]," he says. "In what sense, they had no idea, and neither did I, really." Hank apparently suffered from attention deficit disorder, but it went undiagnosed until his freshman year in college. Looking back, it's not hard to find the clues. "Trip and I loved to practice," says Kelli. "We would stand at the range and hit balls for hours. Henry couldn't stand it—all he wanted to do was go play."
The differences were even more pronounced when it came to academics. Kuehne also had a mild case of dyslexia and difficulty understanding what he heard, conditions that also went unrecognized. "I'd beat myself up about the schoolwork," says Hank. "No matter how hard my dad or anyone was on me, it wasn't even close to how hard I was on myself."
At 13 Kuehne found a release from the pressure and the frustration. "That first time when you get drunk," he says, "it's the most unbelievable experience in the world. All your problems are gone, just like that." Kuehne's need to escape was intensified by a pronounced depression that followed the suicide of his best friend when they were in junior high. If his drinking occasionally got him into mischief, it was naively shrugged off by the family as simply Henry being Henry.
It wasn't hard for Hank to live a lie, because he was, by all accounts, gifted at spinning yarns. A classic example came during his senior year in high school, when he got into a fight in a bar in downtown Dallas. Kuehne's head was rammed through the screen of a TV, resulting in a nasty cut on the back of his head. His teeth were pushed through his lower lip, and the bursa sac in his elbow burst when he was slammed against a brick wall. He convinced his parents that the injuries occurred when he slipped while jogging in the rain. "Everything he did and said back then was a total con job," says Ernie.
That all changed in the wake of the accident. Confronted with the most sobering evidence yet that he had lost control of his life, Hank checked into the Hazelden Center for Youth and Families in Plymouth, Minn., seven days after the crash. He would be there for three months. "To get better you have to learn to stop running from the pain," says Hank. "You have to confront all of your problems when all you want to do is to run, to hide, to get away. It hurt so much to do that, but it's an amazing thing when you come through the other side. I'm 21 years old, but I know more about myself than most people do before they die."
Wiping the slate clean after Hazelden, Kuehne moved back home and transferred to nearby Collin County Community College. With his thirst quenched and his home life stable, everything else quickly fell into place. Ritalin brought his studying into focus much the way a pair of glasses corrects poor eyesight. After one semester in junior college, Kuehne transferred to SMU, where he had a 3.2 GPA last term. And after going four months without touching a club because of the broken ribs and the Minnesota winter, Kuehne threw himself back into the game. "When I got out of rehab, all I did was play golf," he says. "Thirty-six holes a day, every day, at the very least. That was my life."
Kuehne has been able to convert his passion into performance. He ran away with the Southwest Conference championship last year, just a week after Kelli won the women's SWC title, and this year he set four course records, firing a 62 and three 63s. What makes him so explosive? "Henry's longer than Tiger," says Kelli, "and Tiger'll tell you that too."
"Definitely, without a doubt," says Woods. "He hits it a lot farther than I do. Henry is longer than anyone I've ever played with."