What a Day: When a 10-year-old Ghim met a future TOUR star
October 21, 2019
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- No, that little kid in this 2007 photo is not Doug Ghim, but Jason Day was happy to sign autographs for his fans. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
Doug Ghim still has the golf ball stashed away in his bedroom in the house in the Chicago suburbs where he grew up.
He’s was 10 years when he got the nerve to ask Jason Day to sign it back in 2007. And now Ghim is playing with the former world No. 1 on the PGA TOUR.
Talk about coming full circle.
Day was just beginning to make his mark in the United States when Ghim, already a talented amateur, went out to watch professional golf at the LaSalle Bank Open (in Glenview, Illinois) on what is now known as the Korn Ferry Tour. He remembers getting out of the car and wondering which player he was going to follow.
“I didn't know any of the players because at that age you only know Tiger (Woods) and Phil (Mickelson), and so you're trying to figure out anyone that I could either admire or who I thought was going to be really good,” Ghim recalls.
It didn’t take him long to find that person. The public parking lot happened to be adjacent to the first fairway at the Glen Club and Day had just teed off. Ghim got there in time to see the 19-year-old Aussie hit a driver off the deck and make birdie, and he was hooked.
“I thought, wow, I want to follow this guy,” Ghim says. “And he ended up giving me that golf ball.”
Day started the final round in a three-way tie for the lead at 13 under but shot 73 and fell back into a tie for ninth. Still, it started a streak of five top-10s in seven starts -- including a win two starts later at the Legend Financial Group -- that propelled Day to stardom on the PGA TOUR.
Ghim, who walked 18 holes with Day that day at the LaSalle Bank Open, remembers being disappointed when his new favorite player didn’t win. But he followed him to the clubhouse and asked Day to sign the ball he had given him.
Not only did Ghim score the autograph, he got some words of encouragement, too.
“I hope to see you someday out here,” Ghim remembers Day telling him.
Ten years later, Ghim was runner-up at the U.S. Amateur, which earned him an invitation to the 2018 Masters. He was among a handful of players on the grounds at Augusta National the Sunday before the tournament began and had just finished hitting balls when he saw Day striding toward the range.
Day said hello as they passed each other. Ghim stopped and turned around and said, “Hey, Jason, have you got a minute?”
Sure, replied Day. “What’s up?”
So Ghim took the proverbial shot in the dark and asked Day whether he remembered playing in the LaSalle Bank Open. And then he told him the story of the golf ball he signed and what it had meant to him.
“He smiled ear to ear,” Ghim recalls. “And he was like, that’s crazy. I feel so old, but it's pretty cool to know that I could impact somebody and then actually be able to play against that same person.
“And so, for me, that was really, really cool to be able to share that moment with him. And I hope to have those kinds of moments with someone younger, too.”
Ghim was the only amateur to make the cut at the Masters that week and went on to tie for 50th – 30 spots behind Day. The Texas graduate earned the 2018 Ben Hogan Award as the nation’s top collegiate golfer and turned pro prior to the Travelers Championship that year.
The 23-year-old spent the bulk of 2019 on the Korn Ferry Tour and finished 23rd in the Finals to earn his TOUR card where he’ll have plenty of other opportunities to get reacquainted with Day, who’s currently playing the Asian Swing this fall on the PGA TOUR schedule and is fresh off winning the most skins in the Japan Skins Challenge against Woods, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama.
That first meeting with Day will always be special for the wide-eyed young boy with similar dreams.
“It's something that I cherish,” Ghim says. “… I still have the ball in my room in Chicago and when he got to No. 1 in the world, I was pretty proud to have it.
“He's definitely someone I've looked up to and then obviously he has always been really gracious with the media and, and he's always been a great role model in every sense of the way. … I'm just lucky to have guys like that to look up to out here on the PGA TOUR.”
So, don’t expect Ghim to duck out the back door of the scoring trailer when kids are clamoring for autographs. He knows what it can mean to an impact it can have.
“It's something that I've always tried to emulate and make part of the way I do things -- the way that Phil does things and all those guys that take the time,” Ghim says. “… Because you understand that that's where the next wave of kids are coming from.
“And that's basically where golf is going to be in 10 years -- or maybe even less.”