A few days ago, I was looking through the list of players who will be taking part in the final stage of LPGA Qualifying (starting Nov. 30). One name jumped out: Kelli Kuehne.
I've always loved Kelli Kuehne. She's got that great Texas drawl and, well, look at her. She's darn cute. (Don't tell the wife, Birdie McDuff, that I said that!)
Kelli's fallen on hard times. Her golf game ain't what it used to be. But then I realized that her LPGA game was never what it was supposed to be. She's won only once on Tour. Sure, she's a 2-time Solheim Cup member, but one win isn't what was expected from her.
Remember: Kelli's amateur career was a spectacular one. She won the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur, then the U.S. Women's Amateur the following year - only the second golfer to win those two titles in back-to-back years. In 1996, she won the U.S. Women's and British Women's amateurs, the first woman ever to accomplish that double in the same year. She was an All-American at the University of Texas.
When Tiger Woods went pro near the end of 1996, and signed a big-dollar deal with Nike, Kelli Kuehne did the same thing. She was probably the most anticipated LPGA rookie since Amy Alcott in the late 1970s. And like Alcott, the buzz surrounding Kuehne led to a lot of resentment from her new peers (LPGA vets boycotted Nike for several years after).
(Aside: Rumors at the time said that Tiger and Kelli were dating. They denied it, and I believed them. Tiger had whipped Tripp and Hank in amateur play. To then turn around and sleep with their sister, well, that kind of domination of one person over an entire family just wouldn't be right.)
Unlike Tiger, Kelli wasn't able to earn her Tour card by winning late in 1996. She had to go through qualifying in 1997. Her one win came in 1999. She's finished in the Top 20 on the money list just once. She's hasn't been in the Top 50 since 2002. In 2005, Kuehne won a paltry $30,419, just 135th on the money list.
Bye-bye card, hello Q-School.
Maybe Kelli should talk to Rosie Jones about how to survive, and thrive, on the LPGA when you're always two clubs short of everyone else.