CHAMPIONSHIPS
Rising Star: Wake Forest All-American Rachel Kuehn March 16, 2021 | Liberty Corner, N.J. By David Shefter, USGA

Wake Forest sophomore has rapidly moved up the Women's Amateur Golf Ranking since arriving on campus in the fall of 2019. (Chris Keane/USGA)

The following content was first published in the Fall 2020 edition of Golf Journal. To be among the first to receive access to Golf Journal, the USGA’s Members-only quarterly print and monthly digital publication – along with the many other benefits of becoming a USGA Member – visit the USGA Membership page.

People love an underdog story – an early-round upset at March Madness, an undrafted free agent making All-Pro, a 20-year-old amateur winning the U.S. Open. Rachel Kuehn’s freshman season at Wake Forest may not have reached Francis Ouimet proportions, but it was delightfully unexpected. 

While her surname carries considerable cache at Wake, where mom Brenda Corrie Kuehn enjoyed an All-American career (1982-86), Rachel didn’t arrive on campus with a lot of fanfare. 

Her freshman season started with a gut punch, as a late triple bogey left Kuehn one stroke shy of qualifying for the season-opening event. Tears flowed during a phone call home. Brenda, who played in nine U.S. Women’s Opens and was runner-up at the 1995 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, knew the remedy. 

“Mom is great at reminding me of the big picture,” said Rachel.  

“She told me, ‘It’s just one tournament. You can qualify for the next one and the one after that.’” 

Rachel regrouped. A 66 in the next team qualifier preceded a stunning victory in the Annika Intercollegiate in Minnesota, where Kuehn’s 13-under 203 led Wake to a 14-shot team victory against one of the season’s best fields. 

It wasn’t a one-off. Two more top-10s and a team-best scoring average (71.23) led to first-team All-America honors in a pandemic-shortened season and finalist recognition for the Annika Award, given to the nation’s top player.  

“It’s like somebody popped the cork from the bottle and out she came,” Brenda said. 

Good athletic DNA doesn’t hurt. Her grandfather represented Venezuela in golf’s inaugural World Amateur Team Championship. Bren-da represented both her native Dominican Republic and the USA in four combined WATCs as well as two Curtis Cups. Her father, Eric, and two uncles were Division I baseball players. Rachel herself was a state cham-pion in tennis before focusing on golf.    

Now she’s excited about the next step in her evolution. 

“My goal is to keep getting better,” said Rachel. “The challenge is not to put anything on cruise control.” 

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.