AURORA, ILL - The one thing you can say about Kelli Kuehne is that she is certainly not shy. Kelli has opinions about Annika playing against the boys, about Martha Burke, about her older brothers, about Wisconsin weather, about those really good LPGA rookies, about anything you want to ask. It simply comes flying out of her mouth.
"Feel free to ask me anything, anything at all, " Kelli told a group of golf writers at a recent publicity event for the LPGA Tour just outside Chicago.
OK. We will.
Kelli is one of the most likeable members of the LPGA Tour. She smiles a lot and throws in a pleasant "ya'll" now and then just to remind us she was born and raised in Texas. Plus, she's a great ambassador for the women's tour. She really believes in the LPGA and has strong feelings about helping it grow. That's one reason she really doesn't like the idea of Annika trying to show-up the guys.
"She is fighting an uphill battle," says Kelli. "Plus, I'm looking at this from a different perspective. I have two older brothers, one a very good amateur player (Trip) and the other one (Hank), until the last three weeks, has been a struggling pro and I definitely can not beat either one of my brothers from the same tees."
She especially couldn't beat Hank Kuehne these days. He has been showing his talents lately on the Tour and has been regularly hitting 318-yard drives. Yikes.
"Granted, Annika is a better player than I am, but most of the guys on Tour are better than my brothers," says Kelli. "If Annika plays poorly and misses the cut, it could take women's golf back a couple steps."
Kelli admits the decision is a personal one for Annika, and she respects that. She also wishes her the best but believes Annika's going to have a very tough week at Colonial Country Club.
"I wouldn't take advantage of the opportunity, because, I would fail," she says with a laugh.
Hey, come on Kelli. You're pretty good. You hit it farther than a lot of girls, smacking drives about 270 yards. Plus you were in the top 10 at the U.S. Women's Open last year, your fourth consecutive top-10 finish in that event. You shot a shiny 65 at the Sybase Big Apple Classic. Give yourself some credit.
"Yeah, but when I play my brothers, I'm hitting 3-wood, they're hitting 5-iron," says Kelli. "I'm not foolish enough to think I can compete like that."
Now, what about this Augusta thing and Martha Burke?
"I wish she would do more positive stuff and concentrate on promoting women's golf."
Did you watch the Masters?
"I have to be 100 percent honest. I don't watch much golf when I'm not playing."
You're married to a pro football player. Got to be a wacky marriage with two athletes in the mix.
"My husband is Jay Humphrey. He originally got drafted by Minnesota, and I froze for two years. Last year he was with Green Bay, which is colder than Minnesota. It was killing me. Now he's playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars and hopefully we'll be stuck in a warm place. I would be thrilled."
Who's your favorite LPGA rookie? There are a lot of good ones.
"Lorena Ochoa is incredible. She is one of the best players I have seen in a long time. Watch her play; you will be very, very impressed. And she's a sweet girl, shy. But I can work on that."
What about Michelle Wie, the 13-year old phenom?
"The girl is in 8th grade and she hits it farther than Laura Davies. And her theory is it doesn't matter how far in the trees I can hit it as long as I can hit driver. I love the simplicity of that. If that's all she's worried about, then rock on. Good for her. And I'm kind of embarrassed. She can beat me."
Now what about you, Kelli, when will we see you in the winner's circle again?
"I hope really soon. I'm playing really well, but there continues to be one or two things that get in my way. The difference between winning and losing is the winner's putt lips the hole and falls in and the loser's lips the hole and lips out."
Got a tip for us hackers?
"Draw a line on your ball with a pen. Use it to line up your putts. Two things matter when putting - line and speed. If you take line out of the equation, all you have to do it worry about the speed."
She makes it sound all so simple.
Started playing golf at age 10.
She has two dogs, Bailey and Bogey.
Qualified for the LPGA Tour on her first attempt.
One of only two players in USGA history to win the U.S. Junior Girls Championship (1994) and the U.S. Women's Amateur (1995) in successive years.
Recorded six top-10 finished in 2002.
One of the rookies on the victorious 2002 U.S. Solheim Cup Team.
In 1999, became a Rolex First-time Winner at the LPGA Corning Classic.
Member of the 1996 U.S. Curtis Cup and World Amateur Teams.
First team All-American at the University of Texas.
Driver: Top-Flite Intimidator Ti400
3 & 5 Woods: Callaway Warbird
7 Wood: Adams Tight lies
Irons: (3-PW) Top-Flite Pro Offset Tour
Wedges: Snake Eyes 58-degree (SW) Punch 52-degree (AW)
Putter: Never Compromise Z-1 Alpha
Ball: Top-Flite Strata Tour
May 6, 2003
Dave Berner is a long-time journalist for CBS radio in Chicago and has freelanced for CNN, National Public Radio, and ABC news. He created and produced the popular radio feature "The Golf Minute" for CBS-owned radio station WMAQ in Chicago along with writing a regular column for Golf Chicago Magazine. He is also author of "Any Road Will Take You There: A journey of fathers and sons" and "Accidental Lessons: A Memoir of a Rookie Teacher and a Life Renewed."
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