Arizona Golf – Chandler’s Kyung Kim Wins U.S. Women’s Publinks – Bill Huffman’s Golf Blog
Kyung Kim wins U.S. Women’s Amateur Publinks Championship, Eyes U.S. Women’s Open
Kyung Kim only laughed when someone mispronounced her first name. She said she hears a lot of versions these days about how to pronounce “K-Young,’’ as it is correctly pronounced in Korea.
“But I like the way you just pronounced it, too,’’ said the good-natured, 18-year-old Chandler resident as she continued to giggle.
Kim was being kind, of course, which is what you might expect from someone whose first name means “honored’’ in Korean. And honored fits Kim perfectly after she captured last week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship in a bit of a shocker.
“What a wild week it was,’’ said Kim, who defeated Georgia’s Ashlan Ramsey, 4 and 2, in their 36-hole championship match Sunday at Neshanic Valley Golf Course in New Jersey.
“First of all, I’ve never played so many rounds of golf in one week in my life (nine rounds). Looking back, it was a much bigger deal than I thought it would be, and much harder. But being a national champion, winning a national championship, I guess that’s the first really big thing I’ve won.’’
As Kim said, it didn’t come easy. She had qualified comfortably for match play with scores of 71-73. But the first four rounds of woman vs. woman were nail-biters for Kim as she prevailed, 1-up, 2 and 1, 2 and 1, and 1-up before she moved into the finals with a 3-and-2 win.
Even the 36-hole finale was a tightly contested duel, as Kim trailed Ramsey, 1-down, going into the ninth hole of the morning 18. But Kim caught fire with four straight birdies for a 2-up lead she never relinquished. For the day, Kim made 10 birdies to overcome Ramsey’s eight birdies, and only three bogeys for 34 holes.
Asked when the last time was she had rolled in 10 birdies in a single day, Kim laughed again.
“I wish! Truthfully, I had no idea that I had made that many. It never crossed my mind until they told me when I was finished,’’ she said. “But, hopefully, some day I’ll do it again because that was a lot of fun.’’
Kim, whose nickname is “Radar’’ because she hits so many fairways and greens in regulation, follows such past champs of the Women’s Publinks as Michelle Wie, Yani Tseng, Jennifer Song and Tiffany Joh. And Kim is hoping that as a proven national champ she’ll now have some momentum going into next week’s U.S. Women’s Open (July 5-8) at Black Wolf Run in Kohler, Wis.
Or at least better luck than last year, when she played in that national championship. To say there were extenuating circumstances at The Broadmoor in Colorado would be putting it mildly.
“That was my first Women’s Open, and I had been the medalist in local qualifying so I had some big hopes going in there of maybe making the cut,’’ Kim recalled. “But I only got one hole of play in the first day before the thunderstorms came, and then ended up playing 35 holes the next day.
“I remember being a few over par for my first 18, but the second round didn’t go too well and I shot in the 80s. I got pretty tired during the second 18 (holes), so this time maybe we’ll get better weather and I can just play 18 a day.’’
For the record, Kyung carded rounds of 75-80 at The Broadmoor, but her game is a lot more polished these days after last week’s career-changing victory. Kim is among an Arizona contingent at the Women’s Open that includes professionals Amanda Blumenherst, Jimin Kang, Cristie Kerr and Anna Nordqvist, as well as amateurs Lindsey Weaver and Cheyene Woods.
Believe it or not, Kim, Weaver and Woods are three of 25 amateurs playing in the Women’s Open. And Kim is one of six Kims among the field of 156 players.
One thing is certain: Kim is on a roll after vaulting from No. 1,174 in the Women’s World Amateur Rankings two weeks ago all the way to No. 84 this week – 1,090 spots in a single bound. But to say she came out of nowhere to win the Women’s Publinks wouldn’t exactly be correct.
Kim was born in Hawaii on the island of Maui in the small town of Kahului, where two courses – Maui Lani and Waiehu – were just a block away from her home. It was her dad who got Kyung started at the age of 8, and she was a proven champ by 9. After winning the biggest junior tournament on the Islands three straight times from ages 9 to 11, the family moved to Arizona in 2007 so Kim could face better competition year-round.
For most of her junior career, Kim had shown promise. She claimed three American Junior Golf Association titles, the first being the Heather Farr Classic at Longbow in Mesa when she was just 13, and the last being two years ago when she added the PING Phoenix Junior at Moon Valley. But over the years she also had 16 top-fives in AJGA competition, and was once ranked as high as No. 10 in the Polo Rankings.
At Hamilton High School in Chandler, Kim won the state title in 2010, the same year the Huskies won the team crown, and finished as the runner-up her senior season when Hamilton also took second.
But after winning the Women’s Publinks and soon playing in her second Women’s Open, most everyone is in agreement that the USC-bound Kim has arrived.
“I guess it’s been my hard work and patience,’’ Kim said of what’s lifted her to golf’s bigger stages. “My putting also has gotten a lot better, too, because I seem to be making a lot more of them.’’
As for why she picked USC over Arizona State and Arizona, two schools that also offered her a scholarship, Kim cited several factors.
“ASU and UA were still among my top choices (late in the recruiting process), but I took a second visit to USC and realized I liked everything about the school,’’ she said. “They have a great practice facility and campus, the coaches, the athletic department, just everything was really, really great, including the fact that they get to play at Trump National.’’
Kim also is guaranteed of making a team that is always among the nation’s elite, as USC only has five golfers on scholarship. Asked what happens when a player gets hurt, she laughed again.
“We play four . . . and every score counts,’’ said the witty Kim, who was a 4.0 honor student at Hamilton.
But first there’s a U.S. Women’s Open calling her, and Kim said she’s a little apprehensive of the Pete Dye-designed Black Wolf Run that veteran Juli Inkster called “the toughest course I ever played in a Women’s Open,’’ and Inkster has played in 30 of them. And that was before Blackwolf Run was increased to 6,812 yards to make it the longest venue in Women’s Open history.
“I hear it’s really hard and really long,’’ said Kim of the course where Se Ri Pak won the national championship in 1998 with a score of 6-over par.
“To me, that’s a little scary because everybody I’ve talked to says it’s so much harder than The Broadmoor, and I thought The Broadmoor was really hard. Hopefully, I’ll be better prepared this time around.’’
Chances are good that’s just what will happen after what’s gone on lately — even if “Radar’’ might not fly underneath it this time around.