LUMBERTON — One of the top stars of this year’s North Carolina Womens Amateur Championship almost couldn’t find a ride from Asheville.
Fortunately, 12-year-old Rachael Kuehn got a lift from her mother, Brenda Corrie Kuehn.
“She was the one who insisted, ‘Mom, please let’s go. I would love to play together’ so we came out here and it’s really special to have her out here with me,” Brenda Corrie Kuehn said. “I’m kinda more worried about her as the round goes. I’m looking and sometimes I see her, you know, it’s fun”
Rachel raised some eyebrows after a 75 in Tuesday’s first round and followed it with a 77 on Wednesday at Pinecrest Country Club. Playing with a pair of ladies in the Super Senior division, the round became a bit more of a game than just golf.
“It was fun,” Rachel Kuehn said after the round. “They were really nice. It’s really nice of them because I don’t fit in. There’s really just no other way to put it.”
She may not be as old, but her game is saying something different as the preteen is making the course seem just like home.
“Where I’m from, we don’t get much roll so it’s a lot shorter,” Rachel said. “It feels good because I don’t shoot under 80 too much lately, so it’s getting there.”
And after playing in last year’s tournament in her home town of Asheville, this year’s tournament is coming a little easier.
“I know what to expect and how to behave,” Rachel said.
It’s even allowing her to show up mom in the championship division.
“When she came up to me, its not to see ‘Mom, how are you doing,’ it’s ‘Mom, what did you shoot?’ That was the question,” Brenda said. “I said what did you shoot. 77. I shot 79.
“It’s a great little competition for her, you know, it just motivates her a little extra and motivates me and it’s great.”
With three kids, she knows this isn’t the time to sweat achieving accolades, but more to cheer for her kids to begin stacking them up.
“They do so much more than golf,” Brenda said. “I think the key to it is not focusing on one sport way too soon. I think last year was when she really started to compete in some golf tournaments. “
The time to begin focusing is coming around for Rachel though, as the competition is getting tougher.
“The hard part is that nowadays when she plays in junior tournaments, she plays against kids that are playing nothing but golf or nothing but tennis,” Brenda said. “So I think at some point either this year or next she’s going to have to decide which sport she would like to do if she wants to play something in college.”
Regardless of what happens when that decision comes, Brenda is only worrying about one thing, and that is giving her kids every opportunity she can.
“It’s not my time. It is my kids time,” Brenda said. “I played my golf and now it’s about my kids and if I can come out here and play a little tournament every now and again this is a bonus.”
Brogden strides up to 2nd
Pat Brogden’s second round caused quite a stir. The retired middle school teacher hasn’t given up showing youths the way to go about things, posting a round-best 72 on the second day to get within one shot of the lead.
“I tried to clean up a couple of shots from [Tuesday],” Brogden said. “A couple of bad drives. Lost a few shots on the green. I didn’t do any of that today.”
Brogden is riding a little bit of a hot streak, coming off of a win in the senior division of the Carolina’s Women’s Amateur two weeks ago where she finished ten strokes off the overall lead.
This time around, Brogden is one stroke back and is not looking for anything but a championship.
“I’m not sure I can put it in words,” Brogden said. “To know that I played well enough, that’s the main thing. It would mean the world. It’s probably the one I don’t have that I would really love to have.”
It won’t be easy, but Brogden already has an idea of what it will take to win.
“If I can do the same thing [today], 72 might be enough,” Brogden said. “If I can stay straight off the tee and fairways, greens, and putt a little better like I did today over yesterday.”
She will also have to keep up with new leader, Mallory Hetzel, who as the womens golf coach at Western Carolina University, has become used to preparing golfers for competition.
“I don’t play that much. I’m a college golf coach,” Hetzel said. “These are all college players and high school golfers and ladies who are retired and play golf all the time. I probably play the least of anybody and certainly don’t get to practice a lot.”
Hetzel followed up a even par round on day one with a 73, putting herself and Brogden in the same group at the lead of today’s shotgun start, and for Hetzel, that is good news.
“Well it’s good to play with good players and play with the other players who are in the lead and just kind of be able to feed off of them,” Hetzel said.
For Hetzel, it is a simple mantra for today’s championship round.
“Just get the ball in play off the tee and try to get myself birdie putts,” she said. “Don’t let anything rattle me, if I make a bogey, it’s okay, I’ll make a few birdies to make up for it.”