BANDON, Ore. (Oct. 3, 2007)-- It has taken 13 years, but Trip Kuehne, 35, of Irving, Texas, is finally getting another chance to claim a national title in amateur golf.
Kuehne and Dan Whitaker, 26, of Cle Elum, Wash., each won two matches Wednesday to advance to Thursday’s 36-hole final of the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
Kuehne, who lost in the 1994 U.S. Amateur final to Tiger Woods, made an 18-foot birdie on the first extra hole of his semifinal match to defeat Scott Hardy, 31, of Pleasant Hill, Calif., who also reached the semifinal round a year ago. Whitaker birdied the final hole of his semifinal match at the par-72, 6,988-yard Bandon Dunes layout to edge past champion Kevin Marsh of Las Vegas, Nev., 1-up.
"I got a good read off his putt,” said Kuehne. “I finally kept my head still and hit a good putt.”
Kuehne never led in the match until the end. In fact, he won three consecutive holes just to square the match after the 16th hole.
"I didn’t feel like I played that bad,” said Kuehne. “It was just that my putting speed was off. I got a little frustrated, but I always believed I could win. I just tried to hang in there.”
Kuehne parred the second extra hole in his morning quarterfinal match to edge Stephen Sear of Washoe Valley, Nev.
To end his semifinal, Whitaker turned the tables on Marsh, who reached the par-5 last hole with his second shot. He blasted from a greenside bunker to five feet and made the putt while Marsh three-putted from 40 feet.
"It was just such an up-and-down match,” said Whitaker, who is playing in his first Mid-Amateur. “I assumed he would two-putt. My ball was buried. I just aimed a couple inches behind the ball and swung as hard as I could. That ball could have gone anywhere.”
In his quarterfinal match, Whitaker edged Tim Mickelson of San Diego, Calif., 2-up.
Whitaker has played in one Amateur and one U.S. Amateur Public Links. In contrast, Kuehne has played in more than 20 USGA championships, including three U.S. Opens. He has been selected for three USA Walker Cup teams. But, he has gained the most notoriety for finishing second to Woods at the 1994 Amateur at TPC Sawgrass, where he held a 7-up lead after 17 holes. Woods rallied for the win on the second 18, 2-up.
Kuehne has held the dream of winning a USGA title ever since. He even changed his mind about professional golf, choosing to stay a career amateur and start an investments business. His younger brother, Hank, won the 1998 Amateur and his younger sister, Kelli, won back-to-back U.S. Women’s Amateurs.
--Story by Craig Smith, USGA