1 End (?) And 1 Beginning
Masters Might Be Kuehne's
Last While Thompson To Play In First
April 10, 2008
By Phillip Howley
Augusta, Ga. - Where Americans are concerned, the 2008
Masters Tournament is a tale of two amateurs with two
vastly different perspectives.
|When Trip Kuehne, playing in last
year's U.S. Open, tees it up Thursday, it will mark
his sixth major as an amateur. (Jason Bridge/USGA)|
Trip Kuehne, the USGA Mid-Amateur champion, is an old
hand at this major championship stuff, so to speak. The
35-year old Kuehne is playing in his second Masters and
sixth major overall. He has competed in four U.S. Opens,
including the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Kuehne mentioned
in late December that this could be his last competitive
event. Winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur fulfilled a dream of
finally hoisting a USGA trophy.
"I think the experience definitely helps," said
Kuehne, after playing nine practice holes on Wednesday
morning with pros Charles Howell III and John Rollins.
"I came in, I knew what to look for.
"It's just a matter of keeping my wits about me,
keeping my emotions in check and we'll see how it
Experience or not, this is not a normal week for Kuehne.
the Kuehne family represents golf royalty in
. Trip's younger brother, Hank, won the 1998 U.S.
Amateur. Younger sister Kelli won the 1994 U.S. Girl's
Junior, and then the 1995 and 1996 U.S. Women's
Trip starred in college at Oklahoma State. He has played in
three Walker Cups and one World Cup. And if Tiger Woods
doesn't rally from a five-hole deficit with 12 to play
to beat Trip at the 1994 U.S. Amateur, the Kuehnes have
four U.S. Amateur crowns.
But all that said, Trip Kuehne has a day job, a
Dallas-based investment business. "Normally, I'm
not playing any golf yet, or I'm just starting to
play," he said. "I normally start playing about
April 15 or so and play until the end of the season in
"My normal routine is to go to work, leave about 3:30
or 4 p.m., go hit some balls for about an hour or so, eat
some dinner and go coach whatever sport Will is playing
in." On Wednesday at Augusta, 8-year old Will Kuehne
was doing the coaching - or at least the caddieing. He
carried his dad's bag for the Par 3 Tournament.
Don't be mistaken, Kuehne chose his amateur path. He
would not trade his path, or the quality time he spends
with his family. It's just a 9 to 5 (or even to 3:30)
is not the ideal preparatory school for competing against
elite professionals on one of the elite golf courses of the
Kuehne cherishes the opportunity, nonetheless.
"It puts you so much out of your element," Kuehne
said. "You dream about coming here as both an amateur
and as a professional. And to be here is somewhat
overwhelming. It's a matter of getting out on the golf
course and getting comfortable as quickly as you can."
It has been 13 years since Kuehne competed at the 1995
Masters. He missed the cut that year, carding rounds of
77-79. "I made all the mistakes a man can make the
first time I played," he said. "So hopefully,
I'll know where
to hit the golf ball."
The course played at 6,925 yards in 1994, it will be nearly
7,500 yards when the ball goes in the air on Thursday.
"It's 600 yards longer, so it has to be
different," Kuehne said. "It's a golf course
where if you hit good shots, you can make birdies, if you
hit poor shots, you can shoot a pretty large score."
In contrast to Kuehne,
amateur Michael Thompson
is a major championship virgin. The 2007 U.S. Amateur
runner-up has no professional tournament experience, no
frame of reference whatsoever.
On a beautiful, sunny day in golf paradise, the 22-year old
Tucson, Ariz. native was still pinching himself.
"It's unbelievable," said Thompson.
"It's even more than you expect."
Thompson lost to Colt Knost 2-and-1 in the finals
of the '07 U.S. Amateur
at Olympic Club last summer. Knost turned pro shortly
thereafter, forfeiting his exemption into the Masters as
the U.S. Amateur champ.
But Thompson, who was forced to transfer from Tulane to
Alabama in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, is taking full
advantage of his exemption. On Wednesday, he played
alongside two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw in the Par
3 Tournament. Thompson carded a two under par and soaked up
"It was a lot of fun," Thompson said. "I
enjoyed playing with Ben. He is a great guy and was very
encouraging. I think it will help me in terms of being able
to get comfortable."
Thompson's former coach at Tulane, Tom Shaw, will be
his caddie for the real competition on Thursday. But
Michael's father, Mike Thompson, handled the loop for
the Par 3.
"He had the time of his life," said Beth
Thompson, Michael's proud mom who was following her men
every step of the way. "His dad was more nervous than
Michael. His dad was afraid he would fall in the
To shake his own nerves, and prepare for Augusta's
demanding test, Michael Thompson has played 10 practice
rounds at the club. Earlier in the week, he played rounds
with Phil Mickelson and Boo Weekley.
"I think he's ready," Beth Thompson said.
"I think everybody will be nervous tomorrow at first.
But he has gotten to know the course and gotten to know
people here. I think he's going to do fine."
Michael Thompson added: "I'm just going to try to
slow everything down. It all happens so fast. I think
probably amateurs get here and they try to do too much.
I'm just going to try slow it down and enjoy the
PhillipHowleyis a freelance writer whose work has appeared previously