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Reyes, Deadliest Catch star, dead at 38 US coronavirus: 20,000 more people could die in next 3 weeks, CDC ensemble forecast shows U.S. Womens Am Preview: Rachel Kuehn comes in on a hot streak; Marissa Wenzler debuts

Eleven months ago, Rachel Kuehn was riding the bench as the Wake Forest women’s golf team made its 2019-20 debut.

The freshman from Asheville, North Carolina, didn’t qualify for the event.

© File Photo File photo

“She came into my office and asked ‘What do I need to do, coach?’” said head coach Kim Lewellen. “I said, ‘You’ve got to make it where I can’t not take you.’”

Kuehn did just that, winning her college debut wire-to-wire at the 2019 ANNIKA Intercollegiate – arguably the most competitive regular-season tournament in women’s college golf – and has since made a name for herself as one of the nation’s best amateur players.

U.S. Women’s Amateur: Tee times and TV info

“It showed me I can compete on a national stage and that I can compete with the best players in the country. It was more of a confidence thing than anything,” said Kuehn of her debut victory. “Now that I’ve been able to put myself in that situation a couple times in the past year, it’s done wonders for my confidence and game.”

This week, just outside the Washington, D.C., she’ll have a chance to officially claim the title of nation’s best as Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland, plays host to the U.S. Women’s Amateur Aug. 3-9, with Kuehn and defending champion Gabi Ruffels highlighting the loaded field. Kuehn enters the week in impressive form, winning her last two events: the prestigious North & South Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst and the Ladies National Golf Association Amateur.

Kuehn’s pandemic-shortened freshman campaign featured the win at the ANNIKA and two more top-10s in just five events. She didn’t finish worse than 17th and led the Demon Deacons with a 71.23 scoring average.

“We have a really competitive team. Any five of us can travel on any day and we can have a chance to compete for a win,” said Kuehn. “So it’s definitely motivating to know I have to be able to go out there and play my best just to even qualify, let alone play well in the tournaments.”

On the bag this week will be her older brother, Corrie, who played golf at Rhodes College in Memphis and previously caddied for his sister at the U.S. Girls’ Junior three years ago.

“He keeps me really loose on the course,” said Rachel. “He keeps my mind off golf when I’m walking between shots and when I get to my ball he’s like, ‘Alright time to buckle down and focus.’ And he is really good at helping that transition and keeping me loose and not so nervous.”

“Goofy 1 and Goofy 2 when they’re together,” chimed in their mother, Brenda, an All-American golfer and five-time winner as a senior for the Demon Deacons in the 1980s.

The Siblings Kuehn will have their work cut out for them this week. Here’s everything you need to know – including a few more players to watch – for the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur.

They're in!

@MarissaWenzler of @KentuckyWGolf and @kennedy_pedigo of @SMUGolfW have earned the final two spots in the 120th #USWomensAm after tying for second in the @LNGA_Golf Amateur.

Congrats to Rachel Kuehn, who earned her second summer win. We’ll see you all next week! pic.twitter.com/Qhtu2QiyYB

— USGA (@USGA) July 29, 2020 Fourth time’s a charm?

Marissa Wenzler is about to tee it up for the fourth consecutive week. The Kentucky sophomore’s past month was dotted with close calls and finally, at last week’s Ladies National Golf Association Amateur, a breakthrough.

It all started with the North & South Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst. Wenzler played all the way to the Round of 16. It was the same story the next week at the Women’s Western Amateur.

There was extra incentive to make a deep run at those events this year, considering the USGA reserved spots in the Women’s Amateur for the top two finishers. By the time the LNGA Amateur rolled around, she had forgotten that exemption even existed. A friend reminded her by text.

“You might be in it,” she said, “you might be in contention.”

Indeed, Wenzler rose from outside the top 10 after 36 holes to a tie for second, earning one of the final two spots in the championship along with Kennedy Pedigo.

In her freshman season at Kentucky, Wenzler had three top-20 finishes in six starts. The Wildcats won two of their first three events. I

Wenzler attributes part of her recent success, however, to the late-spring quarantine period that followed. Among other things, older brother Ryan Wenzler – who has played on the Mackenzie and Latinoamerica tours – gave her a putting tip that helped her putt more freely. Ryan will be on the bag for her at Woodmont.

The recent success is more mental than physical, Marissa Wenzler says, but the physical counts for something too.

“I already kind of know what the ball is doing,” she said. “I know what needed work, I know what’s going well. That’s been a huge advantage. I feel like the more I play, the better I get.”

© Provided by Golfweek

U.S. captain Ellen Port with Mariah Stackhouse (right) and Emma Talley during the morning four-ball match of the 2014 Curtis Cup.

A legend returns

A USGA amateur championship field can be sorted in many ways. Ellen Port’s name falls into a number of categories: oldest competitors, Curtis Cup participants (or in her case, captain), most U.S. Women’s Amateur appearances and perhaps most impressively, past USGA champions. Port has won seven of these things – three U.S. Senior Women’s Amateurs and four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs and she keeps showing up.

Port, who captained the U.S. Curtis Cup team to victory in her native St. Louis in 2014, earned an exemption into this week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur courtesy of her 2016 U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur win. It will be her 23rd start in the event, and while that sounds like record-breaking stuff, the 58-year-old would have a long way to go to catch legends like Carole Semple Thompson with 41 appearances and Anne Sandor with 37.

But Port’s name is worth watching because she very likely could make it past the stroke-play threshold on Tuesday and show up on the match-play bracket. She did in 2018 at the Golf Club of Tennessee, becoming the oldest player to make match play at the Women’s Amateur since Sandor did it in 1994. Port was only 22 days younger than Sandor was when she made the bracket.

She lost in the first round that year to Dylan Kim.

The average age of the field at Woodmont Country Club is 20.5 years old. Port is one of two players, along with four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi, over 40.

© Provided by Golfweek

Gabriela Ruffels with her caddie, Justin Silverstein, during the final round at the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur. (Photo: USGA/Steven Gibbons)

The field

In total, there are 132 players in this year’s field.

Average age: 20.5 States represented: 30 California (19), Texas (14), Florida (8) and North Carolina (7) lead the way. Countries represented: 20 Unites States (92); Spain (4); Canada, Paraguay and Thailand (3); Australia, Columbia, Denmark, Germany, Guatemala, Mexico, People’s Republic of China and South Africa (2); Argentina, Finland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Norway and the Philippines each have one. Top 50 players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking: 20 Emilia Migliaccio (3), Rose Zhang (8), Gabriela Ruffels (9), Kaitlyn Papp (12), Sofia Garcia (15), Auston Kim (20), Siyun Liu (22), Kiira Riihijarvi (23), Allisen Corpuz (24), Alexa Pano (27), Pimnipa Panthong (28), Megan Schofill (29), Lei Ye (30), Gina Kim (33), Alyaa Abdulghany (34), Aneka Seumanutafa (35), Amanda Sambach (45), Carla Tejedo (47), Kaleigh Telfer (48), Lauren Hartlage (49). Colleges with most active players: Duke (6); USC (6); Stanford (5); Arkansas and Wake Forest (4); Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Michigan State and Texas (3). MORE:

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NHL Playoffs: Blues vs. Canucks Game 1 preview, stream, start time, TV channel and more

The St. Louis Blues begin their defense of the Stanley Cup tonight vs the Vancouver Canucks. Will the Blues begin things on a high note, or will the upstart Canucks cause them to go flat?

In one of the more intriguing matchups of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the defending champion St. Louis Blues face-off against a young Canucks team with plenty to prove. From the outside-looking-in, the Blues seem as though they’d be the easy pick, but the two teams’ respective performances during the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round complicated things a bit.

How we got here

The Blues picked up the 2019-20 campaign right where they left off. They were one of the league’s most consistent teams throughout the season and looked to be a safe bet to potentially repeat. However, following an 0-2-1 performance during the Round Robin, things are a bit more complicated.

The Blues looked flat-out lost in the Round Robin. They allowed the 10th most goals per game and scored just two per game. They also allowed the second-most shots per game while generating the least. What’s worse is that they lost their top seed in the Western Conference in doing so. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for their Cup defense.

The Canucks didn’t exactly set the world ablaze through the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, but they did send the Minnesota Wild home with relative ease — winning three straight after dropping game one. Vancouver was so-so at even-strength, getting out-chanced by the Wild, but they were propelled by their excellent special teams.

The Canucks powerplay was scoring at over 21 percent vs the Wild and their kill was fifth-best among the teams playing in the Qualifiers (excluding the Round Robin).

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The Blues had about as bad a start to the playoffs as they possibly could, however, that all can go away if they get off to a strong start against Vancouver. St. Louis has a healthy and dangerous Vladimir Tarasenko back in their lineup, and young players like Rob Thomas continued to develop in the prelim round. Add the fact that Jordan Binnington can (and should) play lights out for them, and they’ve still got a great opportunity to win this series.

For the Canucks, they’re basically playing with house money. This is a tremendous year of development for young stars like Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser. Playoff experience against one of the league’s best teams is vital for their development.

That being said, they certainly want to prove they’re good enough to compete now. If they can limit the damage St. Louis can do at even-strength and take advantage of their power play chances, then lookout. Also, don’t sleep on goalie Jacob Markstrom. He took a long time to develop, but he had a sneaky-good season for the Canucks.

Don’t sleep on the Blues, though. We’ve seen before how they can flip the switch. They went from worst to first during their run to the Cup and the core group is still the same. Until someone knocks them off, they’re still the champs.

How, when and where to watch

When: Wednesday, 10:30 pm ET

Where: NBC Sports Network, Fox Sports Midwest, CBC (Canada), Sportsnet (Canada)

Streaming: NBC Sports App

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