Rachel Kuehn recently took up running. Without much else to do this spring, she started logging miles. The 19-year-old, who just completed her first season on the Wake Forest women’s golf team, took to her new hobby so quickly, in fact, that she recently mapped out a half-marathon course around her Asheville, North Carolina, neighborhood and completed the makeshift race herself.
“To be honest with you, I actually am not that tired,” Kuehn said Saturday at the end of one last double-round day at the North & South Women’s Amateur.
Kuehn played her way through two rounds of stroke play and five rounds of match play at Pinehurst over a brutally steamy week. The physical endurance gave her a welcome edge. Now that she’s a runner, Kuehn doesn’t notice the fatigue as much on the course.
Scores: North & South Women’s Amateur
“It’s a marathon, you’re playing 36 holes at Pinehurst,” she said.
Kuehn didn’t hesitate to call a Round of 16 showdown with Rachel Heck, a player who has made the cut in two LPGA majors her toughest test of the week. Heck has plenty of pedigree, and as Kuehn said, “she’s just as good a competitor as her resume shows she is.
Kuehn birdied three of her last four to force play holes and win in 20 holes.
“I was really excited to be able to finish that way,” she said. “I’ve been in that position before and didn’t have the same result. It’s something that I can carry with me next time I’m in a similar position.”
On Saturday, Kuehn met Michigan State’s Haylin Harris on an early morning. Both gave a hole away here or there, but ultimately Kuehn needed just 16 holes to advance and meet Allisen Corpuz in the afternoon final.
Against Corpuz, Kuehn got up early but they went back and forth from there. The two were called off the course to sit out a storm before they hit the 12th tee, and when they returned, Kuehn pretended she was facing a miniature six-hole match. She wiped the slate clean in her mind.
“The momentum wasn’t in my favor so it gave me a chance to reset,” Kuehn said of having just lost Nos. 10 and 11.
Corpuz squared the match with a par on No. 17 as Kuehn made bogey, but ultimately Kuehn ended it with a par on the first extra hole.
“The history at that golf course and at that tournament is rich to say the least,” she said. “You walk down that hallway at Pinehurst that has all the names. To know that my name is going to go up there with all of those players … is something that is so cool to me.”
All week long, Kuehn had a veteran voice in her ear in local caddie Keith Silva. A family friend connected the two. Silva’s legend has grown the past year as the man on Will Holcomb V’s bag. The Sam Houston State player advanced all the way to the semifinals at the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst last August, and was runner-up at the North & South Amateur earlier this month.
Kuehn is quite certainly more reserved in competition than Holcomb, who audibly jawed – good-naturedly – with Silva on the course.
“I would not have anything near the result I had without him,” she said matter-of-factly. “We work really well together and he knows that course like the back of his hand.
It got to the point where if the two disagreed on a line or shot, Kuehn deferred to Silva.
“That’s saying a lot because I’m a pretty stubborn person,” she said.
Kuehn carted home various momentos from Pinehurst this week. Each time a player makes a 2 on Pinehurst No. 2 – which Kuehn played six times in competition plus a practice round – the resort acknowledges it with a coin. Kuehn earned her first in the practice round and another in stroke play. Her mom suggested she try to win one more so that she could give one to each of her brothers and still have one for herself.
She ended up pocketing six.
Pinehurst awards a Putter Boy trophy to the champions of all it’s North & South tournaments. Runners-up take home a smaller one.
Rachel’s mom Brenda Corrie-Kuehn, who played the 2001 U.S. Women’s Open at nearby Pine Needles when she was 8 months pregnant with Rachel, was runner-up at the 1995 North & South Women’s Amateur. Her trophy lives in the Kuehn family den.
“Why don’t you go get a bigger one now,” Brenda joked with her daughter. The two remain competitive when it comes to sports.
It’s time for the Kuehn family to clear a space for a new piece of hardware, keeping in mind it’s probably not going to be the last time the display shelf gets reorganized.