Nine things to know: Seonghyeon Kim
May 12, 2022
By Zach Dirlam , PGATOUR.COM
- May 12, 2022
- Seonghyeon Kim will receive his PGA TOUR card following the Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna. (Elise Tallent/PGA TOUR)
Seonghyeon Kim may be an unfamiliar name outside of the Asian golfing community, but the South Korean’s meteoric rise to international prominence will reach an apex later this summer, when the 23-year-old will receive his first PGA TOUR card at the Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna.
Following a made cut at last week’s Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation, Kim eclipsed the 900-point fail-safe threshold the Korn Ferry Tour is currently using to declare players #TOURBound, meaning they will finish inside the top 25 of the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points Standings and earn membership for the 2022-23 PGA TOUR season. Although Kim has yet to win on the Korn Ferry Tour, the rookie has two runner-up finishes, including a playoff loss at the Lake Charles Championship, and a solo third in his first 11 starts this season.
“When I first came here to compete on the Korn Ferry Tour, I promised myself I wanted to be consistent, and that consistency really paid off,” Kim said shortly after his final round at the Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation. “There is definitely a new goal now. I earned PGA TOUR status, now that I see myself at No. 2 in the rankings, with the amount of events left and the game I’m playing right now, I would love to finish No. 1. That’s my new goal and I’m going to work hard for it.”
Kim turned professional at 19 years old in December 2017. Although Kim suffered a setback at the 2018 Korean Tour Qualifying Tournament, he finished fourth at Japan Tour Qualifying School in December 2018, granting him dual status on Japan Golf Tour and the Abema TV Tour, also known as Japan Challenge Tour.
Kim eventually burst into the top 200 of the Official World Golf Ranking as he won four times in Asia, both on primary and second-level tours in Japan and Korea across 2019, 2020 and 2021.
The most devoted of PGA TOUR fans may remember Kim from last October’s CJ CUP @ SUMMIT, into which he gained entry as one of the highest-ranked Koreans in the OWGR. Kim shot a 9-under 63 in the second round and entered the weekend T2, tied with major championship winners Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott, behind only PGA TOUR winner Keith Mitchell. Kim faded to T32 on the weekend as Rory McIlroy took the title, but it gave the world quite a preview of his incredible potential.
“I think everything came down as planned,” Kim said. “I’m surprised it all came quickly, but I know I worked hard on and off the course to be where I am.”
Here are nine things to know about Kim, the newest 2022-23 PGA TOUR card holder.
1. Kim notched his first professional victory at the 2019 Heiwa PGM Challenge on the Abema TV Tour. The following year, Kim won on the Srixon Tour (operated by the KPGA and one level below the Korean Tour) and led its money list prior to a career-altering win at the 2020 KPGA Championship.
2. Kim won two of the most prestigious events in Asia, the aforementioned KPGA Championship, one of the two longest running and most prestigious events on the Korean Tour, and the 2021 Japan PGA Championship, one of Japan Golf Tour’s five major championships. Kim Monday qualified into the KPGA Championship, making him the first Monday qualifier in history to win a Korean Tour event. Past winners of the Japan PGA Championship include Japan Golf Tour all-time wins leader Masashi Ozaki, PGA TOUR winner Isao Aoki, Shingo Katayama, and Ryo Ishikawa. The only other player in history to win both the KPGA Championship and Japan PGA Championship is fellow Korean Hyung-Sung Kim.
3. Through the first 11 events of the Korn Ferry Tour season, Kim ranks fourth in scoring average at 68.95. Going low is a strong suit of Kim’s. In the final round of the 2021 Golf Partner Pro-Am Tournament on the Japan Golf Tour, Kim carded a 12-under 58 and tied the tour’s 18-hole scoring record previously established by former PGA TOUR member Ryo Ishikawa.
4. Kim made his way to the United States for the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament. Kim was a First Stage medalist and breezed through Second Stage for membership. At Final Stage, Kim made birdie on his 71st hole and finished on the number for guaranteed spots in the first eight events of the 2022 season.
Had Kim finished one stroke worse and dropped outside the top 40, Kim’s trajectory looks a lot different. Kim still would have climbed the priority ranking after the first reshuffle via a T19 at the season-opening The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay, but he would not have gained entry on his number to The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club or the LECOM Suncoast Classic, where he finished third and T2, respectively.
Without the 373.75 points accrued in those events, Kim would be No. 18 on the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List. One stroke makes all the difference on the Korn Ferry Tour.
5. Kim makes trips home to Korea, where his mother, father and younger brother still reside, but he is based in Dallas, Texas. When Kim is not traveling the country on the Korn Ferry Tour, he lives mostly at hotels. With a PGA TOUR card secure, Kim will begin searching for something a little more permanent.
“It’s a first for me to come overseas, so far away, staying at hotels week-in and week-out,” Kim said. “I won’t lie, it’s been a lonely journey, but I was fortunate to have a lot of fellow Korean players who became close friends now and helped me throughout the day, week-in and week-out.”
6. Fellow Korean K.J. Choi is an iconic figure to Kim. Choi has also become a mentor of sorts for Kim, as the two often play together at the Texas Golf Center in Fort Worth, Texas. The two also share a connection through Ferrum Club, a private country club in Korea which is both a sponsor of Kim’s and host of the KPGA’s K.J. Choi Invitational.
7. Kim forged a close friendship with fellow countryman and Korn Ferry Tour member Sangmoon Bae, a two-time PGA TOUR winner. The two share the same management team.
8. Kim will be the sixth Korean to graduate from the Korn Ferry Tour via the Regular Season, joining Sung Kang (2015), Si Woo Kim (2015), D.H. Lee (2015), Sungjae Im (2018) and K.H. Lee (2018). Another five Koreans graduated via the Korn Ferry Tour Finals – Seung-Yul Noh (2013), Whee Kim (2014), Sung Joon Park (2014), Whee Kim (2016) and Sangmoon Bae (2018).
9. Kim will be a PGA TOUR member in 2022-23!