Kelli Kuehne's Breakthrough
Kelli Kuehne sang the Britney Spears hit Sometimes last week as
she strolled the fairways of Corning (N.Y.) Country Club, where
on Sunday she won for the first time as a pro, in the Corning
Classic. After Saturday's third round, in which she shot a
two-under-par 70 to trail Rosie Jones, the eventual runner-up, by
a stroke, Kuehne was asked what song best described her rookie
season of 1998. "The band didn't play last year," Kuehne said.
Kuehne, 22, turned pro in November 1996 after only one year at
Texas and was anointed the distaff Tiger Woods. Like her friend
Woods, Kuehne had aced the U.S. Amateur (she won it in 1995 and
'96) and signed a $1.3 million endorsement deal, the largest in
women's golf, with Nike before she had even qualified for the
LPGA tour. "I set myself up for failure," Kuehne says. "I put too
much pressure on myself to win right away."
Kuehne's debut, like that of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, was
an epic disappointment. She finished 124th on the money list and
had to return to Q school, where she missed the cut.
Kuehne has adopted a less fanatical practice regimen in '99,
taking at least one day off each week. She has spent more time
with her fiance, offensive lineman Jay Humphrey, a fourth-round
draft choice of the Minnesota Vikings who outweighs the 5'3"
Kuehne by almost 200 pounds, and her chocolate Lab, Bailey.
Two weeks ago Kuehne had what was then a career-best tie for
seventh at the Philips Invitational in Austin. After Sunday's
$112,500 victory--Kuehne beat Jones by a shot despite going four
over par on the final four holes--she was being likened to "a
young Nancy Lopez" by Tammie Green.
"Last season I made it life or death," says Kuehne. "Now I
realize that there's more to life than golf. That really set in
when I didn't make it through Q school. This game humbles you as
you get older." --Tom Hanson
In and Out of the Open
THE HIGH ROAD TO PINEHURST
There are several ways to qualify for the June 17-20 U.S. Open at
Pinehurst. One is by being Jack Nicklaus, whose three-year
special exemption into the Open is good through 2000. Mere
mortals, however, were watching the money list because last week
was their last chance to play their way in as a top 10 money
winner on the PGA Tour or as one of the top two in earnings in
Retief Goosen, the South African, tied for fourth at last week's
Volvo PGA to get the No. 2 spot on the Euro money list. He's in.
Loren Roberts, who began the week No. 10 in earnings on the PGA
Tour but slipped to 12th after skipping Kemper, is out.
Roberts, who won the Byron Nelson Classic in May, will now join
760 others vying for the final 85 spots at 13 sectional
qualifiers across the country on June 7 and 8. Ian Woosnam, who
has a run of 43 straight starts in the majors, is also entered,
but he's still hoping for a special exemption.
Olin Browne should give him hope, at least. Browne won the
Colonial on May 23 and came so close to exemption s-12 (winners
of at least two Tour events from April 22, 1998, through April
28, 1999) that those old softies at the USGA let him in anyway.
The biggest surprise of the Open scramble, though, came courtesy
of Carlos Franco, who at No. 14 on the U.S. money list needed a
top three in the Kemper but didn't show up for his tee time. Two
weeks earlier he'd withdrawn from the Nelson after a first-round
68. "We weren't entered [in the Kemper]," says Franco's caddie
and manager, Kieran (Doc) Docherty. "There was a mix-up." What
about the Nelson? "Allergies," says Docherty.
Franco was in Paraguay last week to be with his older brother
Angel, who had survived the local qualifier in Tarpon Springs,
Fla., on May 19. Both will play in the June 8 sectional in
Memphis--an exercise Carlos could have avoided but for those
scratches in his last two starts. "That's O.K.," Docherty says.
"We'll just qualify. No problem."
What do these players have in common?
They're the only players to have made a double eagle at the
Kemper Open. Austin performed the feat in 1998, Brooks in '91
and Dunlap during last Thursday's first round. All came on the
520-yard, par-5 6th hole.
Should the PGA of America make Brian Watts eligible to play on
the U.S. Ryder Cup team?
--Based on 564 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Will Jack Nicklaus win again? To vote, go to
The Tournament Players Club at Avenel yielded only 33 subpar
scores during the Kemper Open, but the course ranks as only the
sixth-toughest TPC on Tour. Here are the 12 TPC tracks that have
hosted Tour events and the pros' average scores on them.
COURSE (EVENT) AVERAGE SCORE
1. Eagle Trace* (HONDA) 73.354
2. Sawgrass (PLAYERS) 73.162
3. Woodlands (HOUSTON) 72.329
4. StarPass* (TUCSON) 72.118
5. Sugarloaf (ATLANTA) 72.099
6. Avenel (KEMPER) 72.025
7. Heron Bay (HONDA) 72.015
8. Southwind (MEMPHIS) 71.055
9. Scottsdale (PHOENIX) 71.015
10. River Highlands (HARTFORD) 70.881
11. Summerlin (LAS VEGAS) 70.516
12. Las Colinas (NELSON) 70.467
*No longer used by tournament.
Woody Williams, Boise, Idaho
Williams, 58, went 2-2-5-2 (double eagle, birdie, bogey, eagle)
on his last four holes to finish a two-under 70 at Centennial
Golf Course in Nampa. He holed a 202-yard two-iron at the par-5
15th, made a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-3 16th and eagled
from 85 yards with a sand wedge at the par-4 18th.
Tracey Gage, Fayetteville, N.C.
Chad Collins, Richmond, Ind.
Gage, a recent graduate of Methodist College, in Fayetteville,
and Collins, a sophomore there, were named the women's and men's
NCAA Division III players of the year for the second straight
time. Gage, who recently became an assistant pro at Pine Needles
Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C., led the Monarchs to
their third women's division title in four years by finishing
second behind Lisa Cave, a junior at Florida Southern. Collins
won his second consecutive men's crown with an even-par 284--one
stroke off the tournament record, which he tied last year--while
leading the Methodist men to their sixth national title in a row.