ARDMORE, Pennsylvania – Brenda Corrie Kuehn wears a gold scapular medal around her neck, and for years has told daughter Rachel about the time her heart was pounding so hard she could feel that necklace moving up and down as she faced a 4-foot downhill slider to clinch the 1998 Curtis Cup.
“I can’t even tell you the amount of times she’s told us about the 4-footer,” said Rachel, “downhill, left-to-right.”
There are pictures scattered around the family’s North Carolina home of Kuehn walking the fairways at the Curtis Cup with her oldest son, Corrie, who was a baby at the time. Rachel grew up familiar with her mother’s Curtis Cup pins, red blazer, and vintage footage of that putt, which gave Team USA its first victory over Great Britain and Ireland in eight years.
Now, it’s Rachel’s turn to make memories. There was a time when she longed to escape her mother’s shadow. Now, she basks in what they share.
Rachel Kuehn and her mother Brenda Corrie Kuehn pose for a photo after the team won the 2021 Curtis Cup at Conwy Golf Club in North Wales, United Kingdom on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. (Oisin Keniry/USGA)
On Friday at the 42nd Curtis Cup, Rachel’s team serenaded her on the first tee for her 21st birthday. One day, Rachel will likely tell her own kids about the time she had her own Cup-clinching moment in Wales, followed by a milestone birthday at Merion, one of the game’s most iconic courses. Her present: two full points and a commanding 5-1 lead for Team USA.
“I don’t know what she’d rate hers on a scale of 1 to 100,” said Rachel of mom’s Curtis Cup experience, “but mine is a 200.”
They are the second mother-daughter duo to compete in a Curtis Cup, joining Jane Bastanchury Booth and Kellee Booth. Brenda and Kelly happened to be foursomes partners in 1998.
The 1998 USA Curtis Cup Team as seen at the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, Minn., Friday, August 31, 1998. Back Row (left to right): Jo Jo Roberts, Elizabeth Bauer, Kellee Booth and Wanalee Jenny Chausiriporn. Front Row (Left to right): Robin Burke, Virginia Derby Grimes, Captain Barbara McIntire, Carol Semple Thompson and Brenda Corrie Kuehn. (Copyright USGA/John Mummert)
After a sparkling career at Wake Forest in which she won five times as a senior, Brenda turned professional and competed on what’s now known as the Epson Tour, winning her first tournament in 1988, the Chattanooga Classic, with a final-round 66 that included two chip-ins.
But, after two years and no LPGA status, Brenda decided professional golf wasn’t for her and regained her amateur status. In addition to her two Curtis Cup appearances, she also represented the United State in the 1996 U.S. World Cup Team. Among her nine appearances in the U.S. Women’s Open, the one at Pine Needles in 2001 garnered the most attention after she qualified for the event when she was seven months pregnant.
Given that her first son was born three weeks early, Brenda’s doctor advised that she not play. Brenda wasn’t having it, however, and found a doctor in the Pinehurst area who could be on call. She was eight months pregnant when she teed it up.
“I was having Braxton Hicks contractions through the whole tournament,” she said, “and had her a week later.”
Previous Curtis Cup players were in attendance at the flag-raising ceremony to kick off the 2022 Curtis Cup at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. on Thursday, June 9, 2022. Left to right: Ellen Port, Brenda Kuehn and Marla Jemsek-Weeks (Chris Keane/USGA)
Twenty-one years later, Kuehn walked alongside her daughter at Merion, feeling a different kind of nerves as she caught up with players like Karen Stupples and Marla Jemsek-Weeks, who competed with her in the late 90s.
After Brenda had Rachel, it became too hard to keep up with golf with a baby and one child in school, so she wound down her competition schedule. Rachel grew up playing soccer, tennis, baseball and golf on Sundays with her family.
At age 13, she decided to pick golf as her main sport, but continued to compete in tennis throughout high school, earning all-state honors. The original intent was to use golf to attend an Ivy League School, but as her golf game progressed, the academic-minded student began to see other doors open.
She did not, however, want to follow in the footsteps of both her parents, who met at Wake Forest. Father Eric briefly played baseball for the Demon Deacons.
“I’m a Wake Forest fan,” Rachel told them, “but never in a million years am I going to Wake Forest.
“I wanted my own school, especially if I was going to be a golfer. I didn’t want to go and be known as her daughter.”
But, after Rachel went on a campus visit to Wake, there was no turning back. Now she’s happy with her name on the same walls of fame as mom and chasing her records. The rising senior even plans to stay on for a fifth season, using her extra year of eligibility from the COVID-19 pandemic to pursue a graduate degree in business analytics.
Mother and daughter are both bubbly and feisty and competitive. Rachel is more aggressive in her game, but strives to match her mother’s work ethic.
“First of all, she’s done a lot more than me,” said Brenda. “She’s leaping me, and it’s just fabulous to see.”
After she graduates, Rachel, who is currently No. 11 in the world, plans to turn professional, though she knows that she can always get her amateur status back, just like mom.
“I don’t want 10 to 15 years from now say, ‘Oh I wish I had tried,’ ” said Rachel.
One might say it’s her destiny.