Sue Kim of Langley, B.C., dedicated her first career Symetra Tour win to her father, who passed away three years ago.
The 22-year-old Canadian won the Decatur-Forsyth Classic in Decatur, Ill., on Sunday in a playoff over Laura Kueny of the United States.
"I finished my playoff and I realized it is Father's Day today," Kim said late Sunday evening in an interview as she was traveling with her mother and sister from Decatur to the next stop on the Symetra Tour in South Bend, Ind. "It was a perfect day to win it and dedicate it to my father."
Her dad, Jong Kim, got her into the game as an eight-year-old, taking her to the driving range and building her first sets of junior clubs. He was more of a fan and supporter than an instructor, but always offered "great guidance," Kim said. "He was, I would say, the most important person in my life."
Asked how her father would have reacted to her finest career moment Sunday, Kim replied: "I dont know what he would have said but he would have given me a big hug."
Her performance Sunday was certainly one that would make any parent proud.
Kim ripped apart Hickory Point Golf Club, posting a nine-under-par 63 to reach 10 under for the 54-hole tournament. The 63, which included nine birdies, was a career low.
"It's pretty amazing how easy the game seemed," said Kim, a former amateur star who's in her third year as a pro. She hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation and felt she had a makable birdie putt on every hole.
On the first extra hole against Kueny, Kim made her most important birdie of the day, sinking a five-foot putt for the win.
Kim started the final round in a tie for 36th place, but her bogey-free romp gave her a two-stroke lead as she walked off her final green.
Not that she knew it. “I’m leading?” she said, according to a symetratour.com story. “I didn’t realize I’m leading. I haven’t look at the leader board.”
She then had to wait two hours for the remaining groups to finish, passing her time in Hickory Point’s pro shop watching the final round of the men’s U.S. Open unfold on TV. (Birdies weren't so plentiful there.) “I didn’t want to be nervous thinking about what people [other competitors] are doing," she told symetratour.com. "I can’t do anything about it.”
Kueny made a birdie at the last hole to force the playoff, her second of the year.
Kim drove her tee shot on the first extra hole in the fairway, setting up the approach to five feet. Kueny smacked her drive into the rough and struggled to get to her ball to within 35 feet of the cup.
While Kim’s victory is the biggest of her pro career, it’s not her first trip into the winner’s circle. She’s won at least two U.S. mini-tour events and captured consecutive titles on the pro CN Canadian Women’s Tour while still an amateur. Also as an amateur, she won the B.C. Junior Girls Championship twice and was a runner-up twice at the Canadian Women's Amateur.
Kim’s $15,000 (U.S.) winners’ cheque took her to first place on the developmental circuit’s money list. Kueny is in second spot, about $6,000 behind. The top 10 at the end of the season earn full-time playing cards on the top-tier LPGA Tour.
Kim already has limited LPGA status after finishing in 32nd place at the LPGA qualifying tournament last fall. But she’s played just three LPGA events this year.
“That was my goal for this year to start with,” Kim said of finishing in the top 10 to upgrade her LPGA status. “I worked really hard in the winter to achieve that goal. Having that conditional status on the LPGA helps me go back-and-forth in between (tours), which is obviously helping me with my game. Gaining that top 10 would mean a lot to me as I really want to reach there (LPGA) and play the dream of my life.”
In the interview, she said her experience at the Wegmans LPGA Championship this month was especially beneficial. She faced a tight Locust Hill course with dense rough. "It helped me more, playing target golf. Not thinking about technique or anything."
Her victory also represents the biggest by a Canadian in more than two years. The last Canuck to win on a major tour or its developmental circuit was Rod Spittle, who broke through on the Champions Tour in October of 2010.
Alena Sharp of Hamilton, Ont., who had finished second in each of her first two Symetra Tour starts, picked up another top-10 result on Sunday. She finished tied for eighth, four shots behind the winner.
Nicole Vandermade of Brantford, Ont., was tied for 22nd while Angela Buzminski of Oshawa, Ont., and Samantha Richdale of Kelowna, B.C. were each tied for 29th.