Trip Kuehne, 35, of Irving, Texas, won four of the first six holes and pulled away to claim the U.S. Mid-Amateur title over Dan Whitaker, 26, of Cle Elum, Wash., 9 and 7, at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
"It’s been a long journey; one that started 13 years ago,” said Kuehne in reference to his runner-up finish to Tiger Woods at the 1994 U.S. Amateur. “I got the job done this time. It doesn’t get any better than this. It truly is a dream come true. I thought this day would never come.”
Kuehne never really gave Whitaker a chance. He was the equivalent of 5 under par for his 29 holes and never made a bogey. His reward was the Robert T. Jones Memorial Trophy and a spot in next year’s Masters Tournament.
"He made par after par after par and it was tough to catch him,” said the long-hitting Whitaker, who was playing in his first Mid-Amateur. “It still was an awesome week. To get this far at this level is something I’ve not done before.”
Kuehne made four birdies in the morning round over the par-72, 6,988-yard Bandon Dunes layout, including three for winners in the last six holes.
He jumped out to an early lead, winning four consecutive holes to stand 4 up after the six holes. Whitaker’s troubles started with a poor tee shot on the third hole. He also had poor tee shots on the next three holes. He got a bit closer with a birdie from 15 feet on the eighth hole.
Kuehne rebounded to go 5 up with back-to-back wins on holes 12 and 13. Whitaker won the 14th with a birdie to gain a hole back before Kuehne won with birdies on holes 16 and 18 to go 6 up. He rolled in an eight-footer on 16 and two-putted for birdie at the par-5 18th.
Whitaker didn’t win another hole the rest of the way. And in the afternoon round, when Kuehne won the third, seventh and 11th holes, the match was over.
When Kuehne lost to Tiger Woods in the 1994 U.S. Amateur final, he was 4 up at the lunch break. Woods came back to win, 2 up. It took Kuehne 27 more tries to win his national title.
Kuehne has held the dream of winning a USGA title ever since. He even changed his mind about professional golf, choosing to stay a career amateur and start a venture capital business. His younger brother, Hank, won the 1998 Amateur and his younger sister, Kelli, won back-to-back U.S. Women’s Amateurs.
The Mid-Amateur, for those age 25 and older, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the U.S. Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.