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Koehn Kuenzler prepares for Augusta Nationals youth championship

Junior golfer Koehn Kuenzler, center, received a custom bag from Notah Dineh for his upcoming Drive Chip and Wedge National Championship at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia April 2. His parents, Zane and Heidi, and older brother, Zy, will be at the tournament to cheer him on. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Notah Dineh donates custom golf bag; event will be televised live on the Golf Channel April 2

Cortez golf phenom Koehn Kuenzler, age 8, will play with a locally customized golf bag when he competes in the PGA-sponsored Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at the Augusta, Georgia, National Golf Club April 2.

Notah-Dineh Trading Company donated the specialized golf bag for Kuenzler to compete in the junior finals tournament, which includes 80 golfers from across the country.

“It’s really nice, I’m very thankful,” Kuenzler said after receiving the gift.

Last year, Notah-Dineh general manager Lex Johnson told the young golfer he would make him the bag when he qualified for the finals at a tournament in September.

“He went out and won it. We wanted to support a local kid who has worked so hard and will play at such a prestigious course,” Johnson said.

Johnson teamed up with Sharleen Odell of Sew by So to customize the bag with Southwest designs using inlaid fleece with Pendleton blanket designs. “2023 Drive Chip and Putt Agusta National Finals” and Kuenzler’s name are stenciled on the sides.

The Drive, Chip and Putt finals will take place before the PGA Masters pro tournament and will be televised live on the Golf Channel.

Kuenzler qualified for the championship after taking first place out of 10 regional qualifiers in his 7-9 age group at the Desert Mountain Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, in September, hitting an overall score of 104 points.

At the championship in Augusta, he will compete against 10 of the best American golfers in his age group. Players have three accuracy attempts at each discipline to try and pick up the best overall score.

“I’m going to try my best and have fun,” Kuenzler said. “I’ve been practicing a lot.”

His approach to high-stakes competitive tournament play is “take a deep breath. I love being on the golf course and whacking things. My best shot is the wedge.”

His best score at Conquistador Golf Course in Cortez is a par 72 hitting from the junior tees. He has been playing since learning to walk.

“We used to call him ‘bang bang’ for going around hitting everything,” said his father, Zane Kuenzler. “He could hit a golf ball at a very early age. At age 6 he shot a 31 on a par 27 and beat me.”

The whole family loves to golf, and the competition is spirited, said Koehn’s older brother Zy, age 12, who also competes in junior tournaments and plans to play on the high school team.

“It’s always a close game, not too many quiet putts. The competition makes you better,” he said. “The junior golf program here is very well organized.”

Going to Augusta to play on a top course is a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” added his mother, Heidi Kuenzler.

On the day after the competition, the family was granted tickets to watch the professional practice round.

Koehn said he hopes to get an autograph from pro Scottie Scheffler.