Originally created 08/30/98

Recovery from past problems drives Kuehne



ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- TripKuehne remembers the minute minutia about his participation in the 1995 Masters. He remembers his daily playing partners, how much money he won from Fuzzy, Vijay and Daly on Monday, the par-3 tournament and his stay in the Crowe's Nest with a young Tiger.

Trip's most pressing memory, though, was not having younger brother Hank there to celebrate it with him. Hank Kuehne was a half-country away, at Hazeltine Rehab Clinic in Minnesota, a 19-year-old with a chemical dependency for alcohol.

"It was really tough to concentrate because Hank's the person I love the most," Trip said about his brother Saturday.

Hammerin' Hank Kuehne will play in the 1999 Masters after winning his U.S. Amateur semifinal match against Bill Lunde 6-and-5, his life coming full circle on Oak Hill's 13th green.

Hank Kuehne's first drink came at age 13, and during his six years as an alcoholic, his brother described him as a "monster to be around."

Then came the Kuehne family's personal day of infamy: Feb. 3, 1995. Hank, while driving to his Oklahoma State dorm room under the influence, lost control of his car and was involved in a a one-car accident that sent him to a Stillwater, Okla., jail for the night. Unbeknownst to Hank, he broke three ribs in the crash and left his golf career in jeopardy.

"I bailed him out the next morning, and before we went to the hospital, we walked to car and I put my arm around him and said `Hank, I love you but you have got to get better,"' Trip recalled Saturday.

Hank, with Oklahoma State coach Mike Holder serving as his personal caretaker, dropped out of school and entered Hazeltine.

"When I saw what my behavior and what I was doing to myself did to my brother, and to other people, I didn't want to act like that anymore," Hank said.

Thirty-nine months later, Hank Kuehne is alcohol-free -- the only member of his rehab class still sober -- and in control of his life. He's not ashamed of his past, choosing instead to confront it. After transferring to Southern Methodist in Dallas to live closer to his brother, Hank's evolved into a three-time All-American and Palmer Cup member. And he's on the verge of winning the most prestigious amateur event.

"I'm always going to be an alcoholic," this 22-year-old said. "And everybody is going to like to talk about it. But I'm a pretty normal person. I live my life one day at a time, as far as being in recovery and everything else.

"I've been very lucky in my recovery. For me, it's a choice. If you drink, you're going to die. So that's not hard to figure out. Let's go have a beer or let's live the rest of my life. It's pretty black and white, and that's pretty much the way I view it."

Trip, a '94 Amateur finalist, is serving as Hank's caddie this week after failing himself to make the Amateur's match-play rounds. The two have been inseparable throughout their lives, with Trip making sure his younger brother straightened out his crooked life.

Next April in Augusta, Trip will be on Hank's bag.

"The star is coming out this week," Trip said. "He's not just my little brother anymore. He's the best player in our family."

The emotion of the moment overwhelmed the Kuehnes after Hank's win. The brothers embraced on the 13th green, and tears streamed down Trip's cheeks. Father Ernie, who has seen his daughter Kelli win two Women's Amateur titles, gave Hank a bear hug that parents across America could feel.

"Every day I tell him how proud I am of him," Earl Kuehne said as tears welled up in his eyes.

"The odds are 12-to-1 for people to lick alcoholism. And to do it at 19, he's so brave."

He started to choke on his words.

"Win, lose or draw tomorrow, he's a winner to me."