U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Corrie-Kuehn Revisits USGA Thrills As Daughter Debuts July 19, 2016 | Paramus, N.J. By Lisa D. Mickey

Rachel Kuehn was joined at the U.S. Girls' Junior this week by her mother, Brenda, who competed in the championship five times. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

U.S. Girls' Junior Home

Teenager Rachel Kuehn and her mother, Brenda Corrie-Kuehn, established their bond in golf long before Rachel had taken her first swing.

For that matter, their shared affinity for the game was probably secure before Rachel was even born.

Brenda was a USGA stalwart in the 1990s and early 2000s, playing in six U.S. Girls’ Junior Championships, nine U.S. Women’s Opens and 13 U.S. Women’s Amateurs. Brenda also competed on the 1996 and 1998 USA Curtis Cup Teams and was the runner-up in the 1995 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.

But Rachel’s path in the game may have been sealed during the 2001 U.S. Women’s Open, when her mother competed in the championship while eight months pregnant with Rachel.

“Technically, I’ve played in a U.S. Women’s Open,” joked Rachel, 15, of Asheville, N.C., who was along for the ride as her mother shot rounds of 79-84 to miss the 36-hole cut.

This week’s visit to the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at The Ridgewood Country Club marks Rachel’s first USGA event on her own two feet. And it has been an emotional reunion with the championship for her mother, whose USGA playing record started at age 12 when she got into her first U.S. Girls’ Junior as an alternate.

“I remember that event as if it were yesterday,” said Brenda, wiping tears from her eyes. “I used to come to these championships with my dad, and now to bring my daughter here this week, I guess I’ve come full circle.”

Rachel struggled with a balky putter on Ridgewood’s speedy greens this week, carding rounds of 79-80 to finish at 13-over 159 and failing to advance into match play.

But the championship served as an eye-opening experience for the teen, who will be a sophomore this fall at Asheville School, where she plays tennis and golf. She saw and played against the best junior girls in the world.

“This was my first national tournament and I learned there are a lot of really, really good players out there,” said Rachel, who decided two summers ago to continue playing tennis in high school, but to focus on her goal of playing college golf. “This was a good opportunity to be able to compete with them and to see how I compare to everyone else.”

It also was a new experience for her mother as a spectator at a national championship. Brenda, an All-American at Wake Forest, found it hard to watch her daughter compete. She understood the difficulty of certain shots, and empathized with her daughter through the ups and downs of two stroke-play rounds, which included a rare eagle 3 on the 474-yard, par-5 12th in Rachel’s opening round on Monday, the only eagle that the entire field made there in two rounds of stroke play.

 

Brenda Corrie-Kuehn is a veteran USGA championship competitor, but is now content to watch the next generation play for national titles. (USGA/Chris Keane)

“You want them to play well for themselves and when they do, you’re elated to see their joy, and when they don’t, your heart breaks for them because you can’t fix it for them,” said Brenda, a member of the National Golf Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.

Before they arrived at the championship, Brenda told her daughter that only about 40 percent of the field advances into match play. She also told her daughter that this week’s field would likely feature the most talented players she has ever competed against.

“My mom’s been around the block a couple of times,” said Rachel, who has two top-five AJGA finishes this summer, including a win in June at the AJGA Junior All-Star at Spring Valley in Columbia, S.C. “She told me to just take in the experience and to have fun.”

Rachel observed the many practice-green drills used by other players this week. She learned about subtle breaks on speedy greens set up for a national championship. She learned that weaknesses in her game could be exposed in a top competition, especially as she wrestled with too many three-putt greens.

But while she also learned that her mother “looks down a lot and won’t make eye contact when she’s nervous,” Rachel left the course Tuesday with a greater understanding of the bond she shares with her.

“I’m presently known as Brenda’s daughter, but I don’t just want to be known as my mom’s daughter,” said Rachel. “I want to be my own person in golf. I have big footprints to follow and she raised the bar kind of high, but it’s motivating.”

As for Brenda, she plans to leave the competitive golf to her three children.

“I’m done, but now I’m taking Rachel places where my dad took me,” she said. “To share this with her this week – the good and the bad – has been amazing.”