Q-School round-up: Shin, Kim off to strong starts

December 12, 2013
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Justin Shin missed a 2-foot putt on the first hole of his first Q-School. He struggled with his ballstriking throughout Thursday’s opening round, estimating he hit just half his greens in regulation.

And he shot 64. Go figure.

Shin, 22, is the first-round leader at the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament after holing two chip shots and making his share of long putts. He was bogey-free Thursday, making six birdies and an eagle. After starting on No. 10 at PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course, then birdied Nos. 13-16. He played another four-hole stretch in 4-under on his back nine, making birdies at Nos. 4 and 6 and eagle at the par-5 seventh hole. His two chip-ins came at Nos. 6 and 7.

“I had a lot of up-and-downs today, and my putting worked great,” Shin said. “To be honest, I never thought I was going to shoot 64 today. Sometimes you never expect it and it happens.”

Shin holds a one-shot lead over four players. Carlos Sainz, Jr., Jonathan Fricke and Jason Millard shot 65 on Thursday at the Nicklaus Tournament Course; Sainz finished ninth on PGA TOUR Canada’s Order of Merit in 2013. Chris Epperson’s 65 was Thursday’s low round on the TPC Stadium Course; he was eighth on PGA TOUR Canada’s Order of Merit this year.

Shin, who played college golf at New Mexico State, turned pro in August after the U.S. Amateur, where he finished third in the stroke-play portion before losing in the second round of match play. He won the prestigious Northeast Amateur, one of the nation’s top amateur events, in 2012; past champions of that event include Peter Uihlein, Dustin Johnson, Anthony Kim, Luke Donald, David Duval, John Cook, Scott Hoch and Ben Crenshaw.

Shin made two starts on PGA TOUR Canada after turning pro thanks to exemptions made available to former members of Canada’s national amateur team. He finished 18th in his debut at the Great Waterway Classic.

Shin isn’t the only New Mexico State alum to make it to Q-School’s final stage after turning pro earlier this year. Shin’s former teammate, Zach Fullerton, shot 73 Thursday.

OPTIONS FOR KIM: Michael Kim had a realization during his first round at Q-School. “I probably have the least amount of pressure of anyone in the field,” he thought. Kim, the 2013 collegiate player of the year, is in the middle of his junior season at Cal. He’s competing in Q-School as an amateur, taking advantage of an exemption to the second stage that he earned by making the cut at the U.S. Open (T-17). He’ll have to turn pro if he wants to accept the status earned this week -- all players in Q-School’s final stage earn some sort of Web.com Tour status for 2014 -- but also can remain amateur and return to campus if he chooses.

All three amateurs in the Q-School field shot under par Thursday. Kim led the way with a 4-under 68 at the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Kim, who teed off on No. 10, was 1-under after bogeys at Nos. 1 and 3, but birdied Nos. 5-7. The 20-year-old has a history at PGA West, having won junior tournaments on the Nicklaus Tournament and TPC Stadium courses, the two courses being used this week.

“I have good memories,” he said. “It was like when I was 14, but it counts for something.”

Southern California junior Anthony Paolucci and former BYU golfer Zac Blair both shot 71 Thursday.

A DIFFERENT SCHEDULE: Jonathan Fricke hasn’t played a Web.com Tour event since 2009, when he missed the cut in eight of nine starts; he has made the cut in eight of 42 career Web.com Tour starts, including two top-10 finishes. He’s at final stage for the first time since 2009, and one shot off the lead.

Fricke, 31, played college golf at Georgia State for two years after transferring from a junior college. He’s played on the eGolf Professional Tour since his previous Web.com Tour season.

“It’s been up-and-down,” Fricke said of his career. “I wasn’t an All-American in college, I wasn’t a Walker Cupper and all that, but I’ve steadily improved and that’s something I take a lot of pride in. As long as I saw improvement on a yearly basis, I never put a timetable on myself.”

DIVOTS: Max Homa, the 2013 NCAA individual champion, salvaged an even-par 72 at the TPC Stadium Course after birdies on three of his final five holes. Homa, who teed off on the 10th hole, played a four-hole stretch starting at No. 18 in 4 over. He bogeyed Nos. 18 and 3 and made double-bogey at the first hole. … Si Woo Kim earned a PGA TOUR card at last year’s Q-School as a 17-year-old. He couldn’t use the status earned last year at PGA West until his 18th birthday in June. He didn’t make a single cut in his eight PGA TOUR starts. His best finish in seven Web.com Tour starts was T-11 at the Mid-Atlantic Championship. He’s back at Q-School finals for the second consecutive year. He opened with a 1-over 73 Thursday. … Blayne Barber, who disqualified himself from Q-School’s first stage last year, opened with 5-under 67. … Steven Fox, the 2012 U.S. Amateur champ, opened with 3-under 69 at the Nicklaus Tournament Course, while Justin Thomas shot 5-under 67 on Thursday at the TPC Stadium Course.