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Kim keeps the NCAA momentum going with opening 66 at USWO
Gina Kim celebrates with her caddie (USGA/Chris Keane)
Gina Kim celebrates with her caddie (USGA/Chris Keane)

When Duke beat Arizona in the semifinals of last week’s NCAA Women’s Championship, it was thanks, in large part, to a mature-beyond-her-years shot from freshman Gina Kim. Standing in a bunker in front of the 18th green at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark., Kim blasted it out, landed it softly, watched it trickle down a hill and stop inches from the hole. It set up a monumental birdie.

Duke was suddenly in the title match, and a few hours later, they had the hardware.

At the time, Duke coach Dan Brooks called it an “old shot,” as in one that you don’t normally see out of a freshman.

Kim pulled off something similar Thursday in the opening round of the U.S. Women’s Open at the Country Club of Charleston. She had six birdies in an opening 5-under 66 that matches the lowest round by an amateur in Women’s Open history. It was the eagle on No. 8 that was truly remarkable, though.

With 141 yards in at the par-4 eighth, Kim’s next-to-last hole of the day, she and her caddie waffled between an 8-iron and a 9-iron. She decided to choke the 8.

“I didn't even realize it went into the hole until people started screaming at the green,” Kim said. “So I think that was just a blessing. It just came out of nowhere, and I'm very grateful for it.”

This is Kim’s second consecutive year playing the Women’s Open. She missed the cut a year ago at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala. She is one off the lead after Thursday’s opening round.

Though she’s tried to put the national championship out of her mind and approach this week calmly, there is an undeniable confidence boost from what happened in Fayetteville – both in terms of the team’s accomplishment and Kim’s part in it.

“It's definitely helped me a lot more than I thought it would,” Kim said. “Just being able to hit that bunker shot out on 18 to be able to get my team into the finals, it really just helped me understand that, you know, I'm definitely ready and I have all the skills I need to do what I need to do and just pull through.”

Kim brought the same caddie to Charleston she had at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last month. Ben Sorrells is an Augusta caddie who has also worked on the Web.com Tour.

“We've kept in contact since that tournament, and I knew he was a really great caddie, and he said the right things at the right time,” Kim said.

That’s a good complement for a player who can hit the right shots at the right time, as Kim can.

Results: U.S. Women's Open
T12NCGina KimChapel Hill, NC100066-72-73-72=283
T55CARose ZhangIrvine, CA50075-70-72-74=291
T60CAAndrea LeeHermosa Beach, CA50069-72-79-72=292
T62AustraliaJiwon JeonAustralia50074-71-74-74=293
T62NCJennifer ChangCary, NC50075-70-72-76=293

View full results for U.S. Women's Open

ABOUT THE U.S. Women's Open

The U.S. Women's Open is the biggest tournament in women's golf and one of 14 national championships conducted by the USGA. The event is open to any female who has a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 4.4.

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