EAGLE, ID (July 23, 2005) -- In her first and only U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, 17-year-old In-Kyung Kim of Korea made it one for one by defeating In-Bee Park, 17, of Las Vegas, 5 and 4, Saturday at BanBury Golf Club.
The event, played on the 6,348-yard, par-71 layout, culminated with Park conceding on the 14th hole shortly after putting her tee shot in a hazard. When the 2002 Girls’ Junior champion put her second shot on the back fringe and Kim knocked a 42-foot putt close to the hole, Park gave her fellow Korean a congratulatory hug.
The embrace caught Kim, who speaks little English, by surprise because she thought the match was supposed to go 36 holes.
“I turn to Kim and she said only 18 holes,” said Kim, in reference to her chaperone, Kim Campbell. “I said, ‘Really!?’ I was very happy.”
She got happier still when she was told that she could keep the Glenna Collett Vare Trophy for a year.
“That’s mine?” asked Kim. “Where is my name?”
Admitting to getting little sleep, Kim didn’t look fatigued. She went 2 up after the first two holes. On the par-4 2nd, she struck her 3-wood approach shot from 240 yards out to within 25 feet of the hole before two-putting. Much of the match went like that. Kim’s precision off the tee and into the green was laser-like. In all, she nailed nine of 10 fairways and 11 greens in regulation.
As accurate as Kim was, Park was the polar opposite. Park performed uncharacteristically, striking just five of 14 greens in regulation. Through the first seven holes she struggled finding the green, hitting just one, overpowering her approach shots to the back fringe rough areas. The deficit did fall to 1 up on the 143-yard, par-3 with a 5-footer for par that brought an animated fist pump from the normally reserved Park.
“The advantage of Koreans is that they hit driver straight,” said Park, who found herself in the first cut or thick rough too often. “I wasn’t one of them today.”
The seventh hole could have summarized the match for both. Park’s drive faded right, into the deep rough, before she struggled to get to the green. Kim got on in two shots, draining a 20-footer for birdie to go 4 up. Kim opted to hit a bevy of cut shots throughout the match to gain more distance.
Park sliced away at the lead with a birdie on No. 9, but Kim got it back with a 7-foot birdie on the next hole. Kim recorded her largest lead, 5 up, on the 11th when Park yanked a 4-foot putt.
With Park hanging on by a thread, she hit her 5-wood fat off the tee on the 14th. The ball skidded into the water on the left. Park said she had remained hopeful she could come back even when she was 4 down. But when the ball disappeared into the water, so too did her chances to win her second Girls’ Junior.
“I wasn’t nervous, but I wanted this so bad. I wanted to say sorry to my parents because I didn’t win. They’ve supported me so much,” said Park, who grasped the hand of her 14-year-old sister In-Ah on the ride back to the clubhouse. “There were 155 players who cried after their last round. I was one of them. I just cried late.”
The only one not crying was Kim. She came over from Korea in late March with the purpose of playing junior events, in particular the U.S. Girls’ Junior, to better her game. She picked up the game at age 10 after begging her dad for three years to play. He finally acquiesced, buying her clubs and then granting her permission to come to the U.S. He followed each match intently via the Internet, Kim said, even though Korea is 15 hours ahead.
For her, this satisfied her goals.
“I’m really happy,” said Kim. “Excited. One more step in my career.”
Kim, who had already qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, will play in the championship in early August. No player has ever won a Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur in the same year, although Nicole Perrot came close in 2001, losing in the Women’s Amateur final to Meredith Duncan.
For complete match tree results, click on the tournament link above.