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August 24, 2006

Trip Kuehne


CRAIG SMITH: What we were saying when you walked in here, you got over that second round jinx which was sort of sticking in your craw the last couple of years.

TRIP KUEHNE: It was one of those deals. I had rounds where I think Kevin Marsh beat me at the Mid Amateur at Sea Island, I think I was 4 or 5 under par. And then the second round, Luke List at the Amateur at Winged Foot, I must have been, 7 , 8 , 9 over. I've kind of run the gamut in the second round. It was nice to just kind of didn't play great, didn't play terrible, just kind of middle of the road and be able to advance. Any time you're able to come see you guys in the tent here, that's a good thing at the U.S. Amateur.

Q. Did you feel comfortable you were 2 up, but you didn't really get a big lead, but you had a good opponent.

TRIP KUEHNE: Yesterday I was very comfortable the whole time. I drove it right down the middle of the fairway on the first hole, hit a good shot, and I was hitting the ball solid right where I was looking.

Today I warmed up pretty good until I got to my driver and I absolutely laced my first driver and hit a smoother hook and hit another one 30 yards to the right. Finally hit a couple more. But the first drive of the day, I was trying to it was into, left to right wind and I was trying to draw it a little bit and I kind of hit a little smoother hook. So I didn't get off to the greatest of starts.

I don't know if I was a little more on edge. I was focused so hard with knowing what's gone on in the second round. What's happened is most of the time I've fallen behind and I really was trying to focus on a good start and hit that driver, and it's like, what are you doing. Ended up making a good par and halving the hole.

Second hole, I hit a beautiful drive just like I wanted to. Here we go, hit a 9 iron probably ten feet and made the putt for birdie. I was like, oh, good shape, back to where we were yesterday.

Then my tee ball on the third hole must have hit it 80 yards off line to the right in some bushes. That was, needless to say, it wasn't good. And had to take an unplayable and then that's when all kind of the rain delay and stuff happened.

I was able to come back in, regroup, warm up a couple times. I started hitting the ball better on the driving range and went out there, I had a chance to halve the hole. Had about an 8 footer and didn't make it, but lost that hole to get even.

Then, same thing. Today was kind of a common denominator, normally into the wind left to right, it's perfect, because I hit a little draw and it's fine. Today I struggled off of the tee into the wind left to right and that's probably why I didn't feel comfortable. Towards the end when we came back home or turned to come home, everything was kind of right to left and I was fine, so I felt line.

It was just in the middle of round, starting and towards the middle of the round with left to right holes still where there was some indecision on what club to hit off the tee, I didn't drive the ball well on those holes. And this is a golf course you've got to be in the fairway off the tee so you can knock it on the green. Those holes I was in the fairway, I hit them on the green, I did fine.

Q. You're probably more fit now than maybe you were when you were in your 20s, but I'll ask the tough question. What's your window yet to be successful here? Are you good for a couple more years or are you running out of time to play with college kids?

TRIP KUEHNE: I think everybody says, can a Mid Amateur win this tournament? Absolutely a Mid Amateur can win this tournament. Tom McKnight was in his mid 40s when my brother beat him in 1998. The players haven't changed. The top end is no better today than it was then. The bottom end, everybody's gotten better.

You know, the toughest part about the U.S. Amateur, I'll say it again, is getting to the tournament. I don't know how many entries there were, but I know at a qualifying site in Dallas, there's 60 players. You get three spots, you have a five percent chance to make it. Some players are a little better than others. Still, it's one day, 36 holes, five percent chance to make it.

Once you get here, there's 312, and that goes to 64; you have a 20 percent chance and then everybody is good because they made it through the sectional qualifier.

Once you get here, it's a 50/50 opportunity once you get into match play. You're going to have a winner and loser. The problem is if you had 100 Mid Amateurs in this tournament, it wouldn't be an issue; the question wouldn't be asked, can a Mid Amateur win the tournament. It's just strictly with numbers, I don't know the totals, there's probably 20 mid amateurs here. The statistics and the odds are definitely not in your favor. If there was a hundred mid amateurs and 200 college kids, I think you'd have a mid amateur and you'd be right there to possibly win the tournament every year.

Q. What's the biggest change of the golf course that you've seen since your stroke play round to now?

TRIP KUEHNE: Well, the stroke play round, I mean, I've been fortunate enough to play in three U.S. Opens. The stroke play round was identical to a U.S. Open on the weekend. How the course played yesterday was identical to how a U.S. Open plays on a Thursday and Friday round. You can still hit shots towards the pin, when you have a morning tee time; and I had a morning tee time, where you could still fly the ball basically towards the pin, hit good shots. A good shot, where you control the ball from the fairway, you could have a 10 footer.

Monday and Tuesday in the stroke play rounds and the afternoon tee time over here, that was as hard of conditions it was fair, because you had a 68, if you got the ball in the fairway, you could hit good shots and you had to have good lag putting. But it was every bit a championship U.S. Open weekend setup. It was very difficult.

It's hard now because they have gotten so much rain to kind of keep some balls back to where you need to hit it. Like the last hole on 17, there was an 8 iron and I just kind of wanted to get to that top ridge and it flew on the top ridge and an 8 iron downwind shouldn't be hit and kind of roll 20 feet back down. Granted, there was a huge hump, but the golf course setup is good, I think what you're going to see is the person that drives the ball the best, that hits his irons the best, is going to be your winner, with the way it's set up.

You know occasionally what happens when it gets firm and fast, you know it takes a little bit of the premium of hitting the ball in the fairway, knocking it on the green, because for a guy like me, if I'm getting the ball in the fairway, hitting on the greens when the course was firm like it was on Tuesday, I'm going to have a lot of 40 footers. Well, 40 footers out here, you know, you're almost better off missing the green and having a 20 foot shot straight up the hill than you are having a 40 foot putt, 45 foot putt coming down the hill. It comes down to who is going to make 5 and 6 foot putts.

With the rain and the condition of the golf course, the course has held up beautifully that it's going to lead to the guy that is playing the best golf this week is going to win the tournament in my opinion.

Q. I'd likes to go to your analysis by statistics about the field. You're a Mid Am, you defeated a college player who won the Public Links, you're now into the third round of the U.S. Amateur. What has that done to your chances now?

TRIP KUEHNE: Well, I mean, I feel good. I prepared well coming into the tournament. I like my chances. I don't know who I play tomorrow. And that's one of the things that I really focused on this week is take one match at a time and the only thing I can control is what I do. And what I'm going to try to do is step up on the first tee tomorrow morning at 8:20 and get the ball in the fairway.

If I play my game and do what I know I'm capable of and play the way I've played all summer, continue to strike the ball and putt the ball and chip the ball the way I've prepared, I like my chances against whomever I play because I know I'm playing well.

You know, with me, every day is a new day. I mean, yesterday, I couldn't hit it any better and today it was a struggle. It's just going to be a matter of keeping calm, keeping within myself and trying to take care of business. Just hit the ball in the fairway and on the green in a short amount of time.

Q. Does your experience in this tournament give you an edge knowing what you just said is?

TRIP KUEHNE: I think it helped today. I know Casey, it appeared Casey was a little on edge. I know I was a bit on edge. He's a great player, obviously to win the Amateur Public Links. It's such a demanding golf course and with the way the wind was going today especially on some of the hard holes, if you're off just a little bit it makes you look silly. That's kind of it.

Q. Any extra pressure with that whole family connection?

TRIP KUEHNE: I think for, when my sister won the Amateur in '95 and '96 she won, to get so close in '94, I know what it's like. I know what it takes to get through the tournament. And then caddying for Henry in '98. I put a lot of extra pressure on myself in a few of those years, '99, 2000, 2001 and I think I put a lot of pressure on myself. I didn't perform near as well because I wasn't prepared to play. There was a time in my life that I didn't know really where I wanted golf to take me. I didn't realize golf was important to me. I took golf for granted and that is not a good thing to do.

2001, I kind of rededicated myself to golf, you know, basically for one tournament, and that was for the Amateur at Oakmont in 2003, and what I realized is that golf is a very important aspect of my life. It's where I kind of, you know, solve the world's problems, I'll say. I leave work at 4:00 to 4:30 basically every day from the mid part of April to October and some people go have a couple beers after work. Some people go work out. I go hit balls for an hour and a half. You know, that's my release, release the stress at work, and kind of get away and get prepared to go home and have dinner at 6:30 with my wife and son.

But what I also realize then is when I'm not going to be able to compete 15 tournaments a year like the college kids are. I mean, they play 15 tournaments a year in college and they play five or six amateur tournaments a year, so they are essentially playing almost a Tour schedule, playing 20 tournaments. So they are tournament tough.

What I just really decided to do is I make the decision not to play golf from October until April. That's my personal choice. I could probably be further ahead and maybe be better prepared to play early in the summer against these guys. But, you know, it's the choice that I decided not to make. I need to work, I need to spend some time with my family. Never in my life have I played golf 365 days a year, even when I was in college.

But what I have found is that if I can go and use my time wisely and I prepare, I can get done in an hour and a half to two hours what most people can get done in 3 1/2 hours, four hours. At the end of the day, college kids are not spending four hours a day playing golf. Their coaches might think they are, they might tell people they are, but I was there at one time, and they are not doing it.

What's important for me is that, hey, I want to make the World Amateur team, Walker Cup teams and give myself opportunities to win the U.S. Amateur and qualify for the U.S. Open. That's what I try to do. That's what I focus on every single year is the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open qualifying and the U.S. Amateur, are the two things I try to get my game in shape for. You know, I no longer take the game for granted. I know it's a special game. You've got to work hard, you either get better or you get worse, you don't stay the same. I realize that and I realize my limitations and now we just kind of go to for it.

Q. 12 years ago, if things would be different, your life would be different, losing that Amateur final, but you have a successful business, you have an incredible family, looking back, that mate be the best thing that ever happened to you?

TRIP KUEHNE: Oh, there's no doubt about it. It's a blessing in disguise. I wouldn't trade my life for Tiger Woods' life for any amount of money or any amount of money in the world. He's a spectacular player and has done unbelievable things for the game of golf, but you know, he can't go to the movies. He can't go to the mall. He can't be a regular person.

If I would have won that Amateur, there's no doubt I would have turned professional and there's so much pressure on an Amateur Champion to turn professional. There's pressure, it's just too much money is thrown at them, let's be honest. Too much money is thrown at them at a very young age. I would have fallen into the trap just like everybody else.

There's some people that you know, my goal is and one of the reasons I didn't stayed amateur is to one of my goals in life is to try to be a positive influence and change the lives of young people. That's what I want to do. And I see so many guys that have potential, but they should never turn professional. I'd like to show people talk go out and you can have a great job, four or five years into it, you can be making six figures or whatever you want to do and you can go play the greatest golf courses in the world and still play amateur golf playing the best courses in the world.

Just look at the venues and the places we play the U.S. Amateur. We played at Oakmont in 2003, we played Winged Foot, we played Merion, we played here, it's the best golf courses in the world. And you don't have to worry about if you shoot 75, you know you've still got a job and you're going to be able to provide. It's a tough life and I don't think that kids realize it; that the easiest part about being a professional golfer is the golf. It's all the other stuff that makes it difficult.

CRAIG SMITH: Yeah, you know a couple, don't you.

TRIP KUEHNE: There's great players, everybody, it's kind of like today's amateur golfers. When I started in the early 90s, there was a few people that struck the ball better than everybody else. Now everybody can hit the ball well. It's just a matter of, you know, managing, having a little bit better course management, managing yourself a little bit better and maybe being a little bit more prepared and getting a lucky break here, a lucky break there. You see it; look at the scores you've got to shoot to make it to these tournaments. It's incredible.

End of FastScripts.

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