When Laura Kueny watched her putt for birdie lip out of the hole, she didn’t curse or even grimace in frustration.
She knew there were worse things in life than missing a putt.
Kueny – competing in this weekend’s Symetra Classic, which began Thursday at Raintree Country Club – is a cancer survivor, which she said gave her a less-fatalistic view on the game of golf, and a reason to play.
“Absolutely,” said Kueny, 27. “I’m human – I still get upset over bad shots, but I don’t let it carry on. I’m upset until I get to the next shot, then I throw it away and focus on getting the ball in the hole.”
Kueny was diagnosed with leukemia at age 4, and underwent chemotherapy treatments for 21/2 years. After years of follow-up exams, she was declared cancer-free at age 18.
However, Kueny didn’t learn just what she had been treated for until right after being cleared.
“I knew I was sick, but I didn’t know how sick I was until I was older and asked my parents about it,” Kueny said. “It was kind of a wake-up call.
“As a kid, you don’t know what’s going on. You just know you’re sick, and you’re being poked and prodded every day.”
Kueny’s first exposure to golf came while she was being treated for the illness, at a benefit tournament in her hometown of Whitehall, Mich.
“That was the first time I ever touched a club,” said Kueny, who now lives in Asheville. “I kinda like to look at it as a blessing. It’s given me a different purpose.”
Kueny’s victory in the 2013 Symetra Classic remains her only win in four years on the Symetra Tour. In 55 career starts, she’s made the cut 33 times, with three other top-10 finishes.
But Kueny has bigger goals, and they go beyond playing on the LPGA Tour.
“I want to have my own (cancer) foundation someday,” she said. “It’s the reason why I play golf, because it’s how I got started in golf. Having that background gives me a different perspective on the game.
“Some people struggle out here, wondering why they’re out here and doing what they’re doing. But I have that answer.”
Leaderboard has foreign flavor: Canada’s Augusta James and China’s Haruka Morita-Wanyaolu shot 6-under-par 66s to share the lead after Thursday’s opening round of the Symetra Classic.
James and Morita-Wanyaolu were one stroke ahead of Katie Kempter of Albuquerque, N.M., and the Philippines’ Dottie Ardina, who carded 5-under 67s. Nine others, including Kueny, were two shots back at 4-under 68.
Mexico’s Alejandra Llaneza, who leads the Symetra Tour in earnings with $35,969, is among 13 players at 1-under 71.