SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Aug. 19, 2007)-- The last time Sihwan Kim played the Lakeside Course at The Olympic Club in San Francisco he surprised himself by edging David Chung of Fayetteville, N.C., to win the 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur title. At the tender age of 15, he became the second youngest to win the Junior championship. Tiger Woods was the youngest winner, in 1991.
"I can’t believe I won this tournament," said Kim after sinking a 5-foot comebacker on the last hole for a par and a halve. "My heart was pounding really hard. I thought I was going to have a heart attack."
These days Kim is much more comfortable in top amateur competitions, and he’s looking forward to tackling the top amateurs at the 2007 U.S. Amateur Aug. 20-26.
Knowing little English when he moved to the United States, Sihwan Kim is slated to attend Stanford University on a golf scholarship this fall.
Kim, whose name means "starting to shine," came to the United States from Seoul, Korea, with his mother in 2000 in order to give him a chance to pursue a dream. Settling in Buena Park, Calif., where he still lives, he spoke little English and was teased by his school classmates. He now speaks fluid English and he’s having the last laugh. He is among the top-ranked amateur golfers in the country, and he’s headed to Stanford on a golf scholarship this fall.
"We think he’s the real deal," said Stanford coach Conrad Ray, who took the Cardinal to the NCAA team title in 2007.
While Kim hasn’t played at the Olympic Club since the Junior Amateur, he has good memories.
"I have nice memories of being there," said Kim. "The course was tough, and it was beautiful. When I was a qualifying (for the Amateur) I was thinking, ‘I definitely wanted to go back.’"
He’s also honest about his chances at winning there this time around against a much stronger field.
"I don’t think my chances are so good," said Kim. "The top college players are a lot stronger, both mentally and physically. They hit it about 30 yards by me. But I’m a lot better than I was. My short game is better and I am making better decisions on the golf course."
Some of the top collegians or recent graduates Kim referenced were named earlier this month to represent the USA team in the Walker Cup Match in Ireland against a squad representing Great Britain and Ireland.
Heading that list are the last two individual NCAA champions: Jonathan Moore of Vancouver, Wash., and Oklahoma State, and Jamie Lovemark of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and USC.
Other 2007 favorites are college Player of the Year Chris Kirk of Woodstock, Ga., and the University of Georgia and U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Colt Knost of Pilot Point, Texas, and Southern Methodist University. Don’t forget about last year’s semifinalist, Webb Simpson of Raleigh, N.C., and Wake Forest, or U.S. Open qualifier Trip Kuehne of Irving, Texas, by way of Oklahoma State back in the mid 1990s.
Billy Horschel of Grant, Fla., and the University of Florida, started last year’s stroke play portion with a record-setting 60, so it’s clear what he can do.
At 6,948 yards and a par of 70, the Lakeside Course will be dressed in U.S. Open garb, complete with narrow fairways and fast greens. After all, many in this Amateur field can handle the challenge. A few will probably be back when the Open comes to town in 2012.
If history is any measure, something unexpected will happen. Olympic has shown that in many of its eight previous USGA championships, including four Opens.
Who would have expected Jack Fleck to beat Ben Hogan in a playoff in 1955 for the Open title? How about Billy Casper overtaking Arnold Palmer in a playoff for his 1966 Open win? You get the picture.
In the 2004 Junior Amateur, Brian Harman of Savannah, Ga., was the odds on favorite. He came in as the reigning champion and opened with 66-67--133 to lead the 36-hole stroke play portion of the championship by eight strokes.
However, Harman was ousted by Kim, 1 down, in a quarterfinal match. But Harman will get another chance to better his lot at Olympic during the Amateur. He is one of 31 golfers who are fully exempt into the championship. He earned an exemption as a member of the 2005 USA Walker Cup team.
He knows too that this year’s USA Walker Cup team still has two openings, which will be filled following the Amateur final.
--Story by Craig Smith, USGA