Teen star Kim set for THE CJ CUP @ SHADOW CREEK
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Written by Chuah Choo Chiang @PGATOUR
Get to know: Tom Kim
Korean teenager Joohyung “Tom” Kim is your typical golf nerd. He idolizes Tiger Woods, regularly watches the PGA TOUR on TV or mobile device and dreams of becoming World No. 1 and a World Golf Hall of Famer.
Some may think he has his head in the clouds, but with five professional victories already under his belt at just 18 years old, Kim has established himself as a young player to watch.
This week, he will enjoy another crack at the PGA TOUR when he tees up at THE CJ CUP @ SHADOW CREEK. The tournament features the last five FedExCup champions and five of the top six in the Official World Golf Ranking.
It will be Kim’s third start of the PGA TOUR season. He made the cut in the previous two, finishing T67 at the Safeway Open and T33 at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. Kim also played his first major this year, missing the cut at the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park.
The Korean teenager knows the road to the top of the hill is long and windy, but with age clearly on his side, he is prepared for the grind to fulfill his childhood dreams. His father, Chang-ik Kim, is there to help Joohyung on his journey.
Chang-ik also is a professional golfer. He played on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour before Joohyung was born, then became a teaching professional. He put a club in his son’s hands when Joohyung was 5 years old.
“It's been a journey and I'm just glad to be here and hopefully to play here full-time soon,” said Kim, who earned a spot at THE CJ CUP @ SHADOW CREEK through an Asian Tour exemption. “It's definitely different. The conditions, the greens, the fairways, the rough, it's all new. And the pin positions as well on the PGA TOUR are different from the tours that I play, so it's a big learning experience for me, a big step and it just shows how good these players are under these conditions.”
Born in Seoul, Joohyung’s family moved to China when he was an infant and they later spent seven years in Australia, where he learned to speak English. Other adopted countries included the Philippines, where he also learned Tagalog, the national language, and Thailand.
Kim turned professional one month before turning 16, a common trend amongst young and talented golfers in Asia. He started to make headlines within a short period of time, winning four times in Asia since June 2019. At the start of this year, Kim finished fourth at the SMBC Singapore Open, which was won by Matt Kuchar, and also at the New Zealand Open before enjoying a small slice of history in July by becoming the youngest golfer to win a Korean PGA Tour event. That victory propelled him into the top 100 in the world ranking.
Kim is keeping close to heart lessons learnt from his father: “He always made sure I had fun. I felt like that's the most important thing and that's why I enjoy doing it. Obviously, I turned pro real early and I was coming up to some big events. I'm very fortunate but he's always made sure I've enjoyed it and I don't get burned out. I think that's the most important lesson that both of my parents actually, that’s the way they've taught me to play golf.”
Since arriving in the U.S., he has tried to play practice rounds with other Korean players such as Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim. Kim is sponsored by CJ Group, which, in addition to sponsoring this week’s event, also supports other leading Korea, golfers including Im, Kim, Sung Kang and Byeong Hun An.
“To be honest, I follow all the guys on TOUR. That's why I watch a lot of golf just because for me, golf has always been in my blood,” Joohyung said. “I'm always trying to get better, so 90% of it is golf. I watch all these guys play. I'm a bit of a golf nerd, so I know a lot about these players. I study a lot about them, I still do.”
He doesn’t need to watch them on TV anymore, though. He’s competing alongside them.