In all she missed the cut in her first six starts, failing to break par in any of the 12 rounds. Three weeks ago at the City of Hope LPGA Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Kuehne finally broke through, shooting a two-under 70 in the second round and finishing 59th, cashing her first check, for $1,125. She reverted to form the following week, shooting 75-75 at the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship to get cooked yet again. This season's lessons have been delivered in bold-faced type. In Daytona, KUEHNE LEARNS HUMILITY was the headline stretched atop the front page of The News-Journal sports page two days before the Titleholders.
So when the tournament began and Kuehne got off to a strong 70-69 start, she quickly turned into the belle of the ball, getting at least as much attention from the media as the leaders. "This week was the most fun I've had as a pro," she said on Sunday, still flush from nearly holing a five-wood shot on the final hole for what would have been a double eagle. That put an artful end to a respectable 73-73 weekend and netted her $8,320. Even her colleagues took notice. "In the beginning I don't think any of us were sorry to see her get beat up. She needed it," says one tour veteran. "But no matter how much jealousy there is, none of us would ever wish a slump like that on another player. That was brutal, and it shows some guts for her to fight her way out of it."
Ammaccapane also came by humility the hard way. During the salad days of 1992 Pepper had said of Ammaccapane, "She's like a fly at a picnic. She just won't go away." This was meant as a tribute to Ammaccapane's resolve, but it could have just as easily applied to her irritating on-course emoting, which got Ammaccapane, in a poll of her peers, named the least favorite player with whom to be paired. Looking back, Ammaccapane says, "I had a demeanor about me, everybody knows that. I'm a softer person now, not so harsh, not so stressed-out. I don't want to put myself through that anymore."
Ammaccapane credits this maturity in part to the influence of her husband of two years, Rod Kesling. No question Kesling is a good guy to have around. Unable to get out of their hometown of Phoenix until Friday because of work (Kesling is a stockbroker), he crashed his wife's gallery just as she was addressing her second shot on the 383-yard par-4 16th hole. Ammaccapane proceeded to hole the five-iron from 165 yards for the eagle that keyed her round.
There were no such dramatics on Sunday, just a lot of little clutch shots. Part of Ammaccapane's resurgence can be traced to her reemphasizing her old strengths: keeping the ball in play (she ranks eighth in driving accuracy at 78.9%) and getting a lot of mileage out of her short game, one of the tour's best. Ammaccapane saved her round and quieted her nerves with up-and-down pars on the first three holes, and, after grabbing a two-stroke lead with birdies at the 5th and the 7th, she again pulled out terrific one-putt pars on three straight holes, the 9th through the 11th. Down the stretch Ammaccapane didn't miss a shot, two-putting easily on the 72nd hole for her one-stroke victory over Estill.
The $150,000 winner's check pushed her to eighth on the money list, but more important it will allow her to cover the tab at Ammaccapane's Sports Bar at 7th and Thunderbird, in north Phoenix. Danielle's father, Ralph, owns the joint, thanks to generous financing from his daughter, and it's a tradition that he buys the house a drink whenever she wins. Reached by phone on Sunday afternoon, while he was monitoring the telecast that was being shown on 15 of the bar's 17 televisions, Ralph sounded a little bittersweet. "From the looks of things," he said, "we may be going back to the days when we're giving away drinks on a regular basis."