Monday qualifier Kim getting more than just practice

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This is only Kim's second start on the Nationwide Tour.
April 27, 2012
Anne Szeker, PGATOUR.COM producer

VALDOSTA, Ga. -- For Sihwan Kim, this week is already a success.


Kim arrived in Valdosta, Ga., on Monday after finishing in a tie for seventh at an eGolf Tour event in Greensboro, N.C., then shot 69 in the Open Qualifier to earn a spot in the South Georgia Classic. Now he's heading into the weekend in a tie for third after rounds of 70 and 67.

Not bad considering he started the week just hoping to get some "good practice" out of it.

"This is good for me," Kim said. "Although I'm not finished yet, the fact that I'm playing well just feels good. I just want to play and play well."

Kim arrived in the United States in 2000 from Seoul, Korea. He was a relatively unknown golfer until he found himself in the winner's circle at the 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur at The Olympic Club. It was his first match play competition. He defeated David Chung, a 14-year-old who would have been the youngest winner ever.

Kim went on to play four years of golf at Stanford University, with Chung as a teammate. He was a first team All-American in his freshman year (another golfer from Stanford to earn that honor? Tiger Woods). Sophomore year, he said, was an "off year." And while his junior year started off strong, things quickly took a turn south.

"For a year and a half, I just had a terrible finish to my college career. But I'd rather it happened in college than in my professional career," he said.

Since then he has taken some time to regroup. He worked on his setup and rotation and feels his game is stronger all around now. After graduating from Stanford in June, he tried to Monday qualify for some Nationwide Tour events, but couldn't make it in.

He then went to q-school, but said "it didn't go so well." So he headed to the European Tour's q-school, where he made it to the final stage.

His plan for this year? "If nothing crazy happens this week, I'll be playing the Challenge Tour and some European Tour events," he said.

Crazy may not be that crazy. Last year at the South Georgia Classic, Ted Potter Jr. Monday qualified and went on to win -- with a new tournament-record score. Kim's path to that moment would be a sharp contrast to Potter's, but it's not out of question for a Monday qualifier to take home a trophy.

With that said, there are still two rounds to go.

"I hit it OK; I didn't hit it too great, but my putting has been spot on," Kim said of his first two rounds. "It's hard to read greens on the course, but my speed was good. My putting was good in general."

He took 28 putts in the second round, four more than the first round, and hit 12 of 14 fairways.

"I drove it a lot better today, but I putt a lot better yesterday. Today I just kind of kept it in play and gave myself chances."

Kim's only other Nationwide Tour start came in 2008 at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational, where he finished in a tie for sixth.

A win this week would be great, but a top 25 also earns him a spot at next week's Stadion Classic at UGA. Then he has a tough decision to make. Another Nationwide Tour start? Or the U.S. Open qualifying event he had been planning to play? The 2012 U.S. Open is set to be played at -- you guessed it -- Olympic, a course he knows and loves.

But Kim is not ready to think about that just yet.

"After my bad ending of my college career, I never get ahead of myself," he said. "Keep it in play and make some putts. That's all I'm thinking about."