Kelli Kuehne Uses Golf to Combat Diabetes


She is only 24 years old. But in the world of juvenile diabetes, Kelli Kuehne is a grizzled expert.
The fifth-year LPGA Tour professional is an amazing example of how a keen education and proper health care can be a springboard not only for a successful golf career, but can also serve as a platform to help children deal with the illness.
My biggest goal in life is to help diabetic children understand that because they have the disease, they need to take care of themselves, see a doctor and get plenty of knowledge about the illness, Kuehne said. Being diabetic has had a huge role in who I am.
Kuehne was diagnosed diabetic at age 10. She learned to inject herself with insulin and thereby stabilize her blood sugar in the early days. Today, she relies on a computerized pump these days to maintain normal levels.
When it was explained to me, it was pretty cut and dry, Kuehne said. They told me that if I checked my blood and took my insulin, I could live a long, healthy life. I understood it was a life change. Instead of wondering, Why me? I just accepted it.
Kuehne said because of good information and health care, her diabetes has largely been under control. She works with University of Texas trainer Tina Bonci to keep her diet within the proper guidelines and also an endocrinologist to monitor her blood levels. But she knows children struggle with the ups and downs of diabetes and hopes she can lend moral and financial support now and in the future.
She knows, too, that for diabetic children, treats like cookies, cakes and ice creams can be difficult to deal with. Fluctuating sugar levels is like riding a roller coaster.
Kuehnes stature as an athlete helps in her talks with kids.
I do feel like Im a role model in the golf world and in certain industries on a smaller scale, she said. I feel a responsibility. I get letters and know it is a struggle for a lot of young kids.
Kuehne, who has one career victory and a slew of top-10 finishes, is doing her part to increase research funds.
She hosts a yearly pro-am, which benefits the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Its held in McKinney, Texas, in late April or early May at Stonebridge Country Club. LPGA and PGA Tour players lend a hand, too. Since 1998, Kuehnes pro-am has raised more than $1 million, but she is already aiming for bigger things.
Id love for it to go nationwide, Kuehne said, hoping similar same-day events could be held around the United States in the future. I hope to raise $1 million in a day.
Ultimately, Kuehne said, that will make her focus on her golf career. She hopes to make a memorable one for herself and some day turn her attention full-time to juvenile diabetes.
Yes, there will be many more years on the LPGA Tour, health willing, said Kuehne, but there is also a bigger goal in sight.
I would like to be able to make enough money in my career to walk away from it (the LPGA) and to solely raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, she said.
That means more hard work, but dont count her out.
I have had success in my pro career, but Ive not been as successful as Id like, she said. My goal is to be No. 1, and Im not there yet.
If Kuehne does ultimately achieve her goal, you can bet that the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation will be along for the ride.
She wouldnt have it any other way.