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Gina Kim hangs on, goes wire-to-wire at Harder Hall Invitational
Gina Kim at the 2020 Palmer Cup (Instagram)
Gina Kim at the 2020 Palmer Cup (Instagram)

Gina Kim completed a wire-to-wire victory today, closing with a 73 to win the Harder Hall Women's Invitational in Sebring, Florida.

It wasn't as easy as "wire-to-wire" sounds.

Kim took a huge eight shot lead into the third round, thanks to rounds of 67 and 69 which left many in the field wondering if she was playing the same golf course. But winds kicked up as the week progressed, and Kim's third round of 78 brought the rest of the field into the picture again.

“I think yesterday even though my score [78] was not that great, I think it just gave me a quick reality check and kind of humbled me and put me back in my place,” Kim told Golfweek after the third round. “I was ready for the challenge. I was glad that I faced all the obstacles yesterday because now I know what not to do today.”

Carrying just a two shot lead into the final round, Kim was chased by a number of experienced collegiate players, and one 13-year-old phenom named Chloe Kovelesky from Boca Raton. The "Drive, Chip, and Putt" and junior golf star made a huge move in the final round, moving up the leader board into second place with a 4-under 68.

Faced with the pressure of seeing her lead extinguished, Kim fired 1-under on the back nine and put her name on the Harder Hall trophy. Since she had no fall golf with Duke, Kim told Golfweek that she focused on her studies. But she did see competitive action just before Christmas, competing for the USA team (that lost to the Internationals) at The Palmer Cup at Bay Hill Club in Orlando.

“It was definitely very windy and that proved to be the biggest challenge, in my opinion, for this golf course,” Kim said. “I think you have to learn how to manage the windy conditions well and that’s where it helped me win this tournament.”

Kim's final round 73 put her at 1-under 287 for the week.

For the rising star Kovelesky, who finished even par despite shooting 8-over 80 in the first round, it was another major stepping stone of experience against older players.

After trailing by a full 13 shots with three rounds to play, she made up all but one of them.

Finishing third at 2-over was Minji Kang. Annabell Fuller and Natasha Oon tied for fourth at 5-over.

ABOUT THE Citrus Golf Trail Ladies Invitational

Formerly known as the Harder Hall Invitational, this is a four-day no cut stroke play Tournament for women amateurs. It was played at Harder Hall CC for more than 65 years, but in 2021 it moves to a rotation of courses on the Citrus Golf Trail in Sebring, Florida. It has long drawn an international field and has three Divisions. The Championship Division and the Forever 49 Division handicaps are capped at 16.4 and the Ben Roman Division includes handicaps from 7.0 to 24.4. It is the first of four "Orange Blossom" Florida winter tournaments.

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