Kuehne, who blasted drives more than 400 yards on at least two occasions during a wind-aided week at the Circle 'C' Ranch Golf Club, shot weekend rounds of 65, 65 to outlast a strong field. So good was Kuehne that even Jason Bohns final-round birdie barrage and Steve Runges Sunday 64 couldnt make up enough ground. Bohn, a two-time winner on the Canadian Tour who calls Atlanta home, made eight straight birdies during his final-round 63 but finished a shot back. As did Steve Runge, a 33-year-old with a Canadian Tour win and a Buy.Com Tour win as well. Runges great day was ruined by an 18th hole bogey caused by an errant second shot that found the water.
Still, this was Kuehnes weekend. And it was really fun to watch. From the two-round, 14-under par total that put him at 18-under for the week, to the gallery made up of wife Nicole and a corral of other family and friends, Hank has officially put struggles and injury behind him. Actually, Sunday playing partner Darren Griff likened the support to Jack (Nicklaus) at Augusta. Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but hes found his form that helped him to the 1998 United States Amateur title and perhaps more importantly hes having a heck of a lot of fun doing it.
Golf Channel commentators Curt Byrum and Jerry Foltz came into the pre-show meeting on Sunday talking about how Hank strolled their way on the practice range to talk about everything from golf to fashion, obviously loose before a round where he just as easily could have been tight. Ask the veteran PGA Tour winner Byrum, who took some of Hanks abuse about a rather slick pair of black shoes he was wearing! Pretty bold for a young hot shot, huh?
As far as the on-course persona is concerned, were seeing an updated Hank of sorts. Its a confident Hank. And the golf world had better get ready. He is as embraceable as he is long off the tee. And his short game is as good these days as his drives are powerful. His four straight pars between the 15th and 18th holes on Sunday included a big up-n-down at the par-3 16th, and another one at the last. Impressive to him, and it had our crew dropping jaws as well.
That wouldnt have happened a few years ago when he blew out his shoulder, causing him to accept the possibility of never playing again, let alone hitting a drive well over 300 yards. And it wouldnt have happened last year while playing on the European Tour trying to regain his form.
In Houston at the Texas Classic Kuehnes second-round 64 put him right in the chase. But a Saturday 75 that included 41 shots on the back nine figured to knock him out. Not the new Hank. He put it behind him and shot a Sunday 64 to tie for second. And perhaps that was the springboard to the win in Austin.
The 26-year-old used a Bohn-like string of six straight birdies on Saturday this time around en route to a 65, and followed it up with another on Sunday. And thus the trophy was his, the struggles were a thing of the past and everyone was left to look at the bright future which lies ahead.
There is no doubt that Kuehne has the game to succeed at the highest level. Heck, hell make Tiger look like a short-knocker at times. Hes really THAT long. But the long and short of it all is that Kuehne has things in perspective. His smile is as electric as his game and it appears his game will go as far as he wants.
One more thing, if Hank Kuehne comes your way and starts wearing you out with conversation, take advantage of it. This guy is gonna be something!