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The Masters: A career coming to an end
Kuehne doesn't regret path taken after losing to Woods

AUGUSTA - Trip Kuehne will always be remembered as the other guy, the one who played a pivotal supporting role on that summer day when Tiger Woods revealed to everyone just how special he was going to be.

Who knows how their lives would have turned out if Woods had not rallied from five down with 12 holes to play to win the first of three straight U.S. Amateur championships in 1994?

Well, Woods likely would have survived the disappointment and still gone on to be the world's greatest golfer. But there's no way Kuehne's life would have been the same.

'My whole life would have been different,' he said. 'I wouldn't be married to the great woman I am today. I would not have my son. I would have turned professional.'

Kuehne had an epiphany at the TPC Sawgrass, as he watched Woods hoist a trophy that was supposed to be his. Maybe professional golf wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Maybe he wasn't going to be the game's No. 1 player. Maybe he should consider another line of work.

Kuehne did just that, going into the investment business and playing golf on the side as an amateur. He now runs a Dallas-based company that deals in hedge funds, though he did find time to squeeze in a victory at last year's U.S. Mid-Amateur championship, earning him a spot in the Masters.

He's come full circle. For two days at least, Kuehne will be on the same course as Woods, the childhood friend who bested him 14 years ago and sent their lives veering off in strikingly different directions.

'I learned you can play your best, give it your all and still not come out on top,' Kuehne said Tuesday, looking back to his landmark duel with Woods. 'But it very much made me the person I am today. It's great to always be linked with Tiger in that tournament.'

As the runner-up to Woods, Kuehne got a chance to play in the 1995 Masters. He was gone in two rounds, then had to wait 13 years to get invited back.

'The course was a lot shorter then,' he recalled. 'I made every rookie mistake a guy could make. I was under the grand illusion that I could do pretty well. When I didn't do it, I was more crushed and depressed than anything.'

He's under no such illusions now. He's a family man with a rambunctious 8-year-old nipping at his heels. While Kuehne talked with family, friends and business associates just outside the stately clubhouse at Augusta National, young Will pulled on his dad's slacks, chewed on a green felt pen and played with a Pokemon toy.

Kuehne insists there are no regrets. Even in a family that sent brother Hank and sister Kelli to the pros, the eldest of the siblings charted his own unique path. He'll leave the office at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, go to the range to hit balls and still be home in time for dinner.

'Golf is my stress release,' he said.

This is where the golfing part ends for Kuehne, at least on the competitive side. At 35, it's getting harder and harder to keep it up with all those big hitters coming up through the college ranks. He can think of no better place to call it a career than Augusta, which was founded by greatest amateur golfer there ever was, Bobby Jones.

Kuehne is glad everything worked out how it did.

'The good Lord was looking out for me when he gave Tiger a couple of nice bounces,' Kuehne said, managing a slight grin. 'I'm not ashamed of how I played. Yeah, I'm disappointed I lost. But I've told people on many occasions: Two winners, two champions came out of that day.

'Tiger Woods became the golf champion he is. And I get to live a much easier life than Tiger Woods.'