Courtesy of Pinehurst Resort
We need to talk about Gina Kim’s fist pump.
No, it’s not Tiger-esque. We can start there. It’s not as demonstrative. Less of an uppercut.
More like a body shot.
It’s short. Compact. But it drives forward. Right hand comes off the putter. Swings back. Then drives through her hips and forward. The ball is safely in the cup, and Kim bellows, “YES!” at the pump’s crescendo. Perfectly timed.
At the end, she didn’t even need one. She walked up to the 17th green of famed Pinehurst No. 2 and marked her ball, just 3 ½ feet from the hole. Her opponent, 2-down and in the left bunker, had fought gallantly but now needed a miracle.
Kim didn’t even need her putter.
When Anna Morgan’s bunker shot didn’t find the hole, she gracefully conceded the match to Kim, the star from Duke. In that moment, five years of frustration on No. 2, five years of never making it past the Round of 16 even though she has had the game good enough to compete on the biggest stages in golf, Gina Kim, of nearby Chapel Hill, N.C., was finally the Women’s North & South Amateur Champion on Saturday.
“This is literally a dream come true,” Kim said, clutching the Putter Boy trophy while standing in the shadow of the Putter Boy statue itself. “Quite honestly, I never expected this to happen. It’s hard enough just to get to match play here.”
Reality has a way of taking its time to settle in. Kim will have her name on the Perpetual Wall in the clubhouse at Pinehurst. Her name will be plated in bronze alongside many of the founders of the LPGA Tour, of recent major champions like Yani Tseng, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lang and Danielle Kang.
On her way there, she even took a nap in Donald Ross’s house.
The match was stopped twice for lightning delays. The first came after the second hole. Close enough to the 3rd green of No. 2, the players and a few officials and volunteers holed up in Dornoch Cottage, Ross’s home for much of the time he lived in Pinehurst. While Morgan and others watched a few holes of the Open Championship broadcast, Kim settled into a chair in the den – under a vintage oil painting of Ross, no less – and crooked her neck and snoozed.
“Best nap I’ve had in a long time,” Kim said.
The pair played on to the 7th before being stopped again, Kim having to leave her ball behind and facing a touch chip from long and left of the green.
And, then, the 9th.
The one on 9. That one people will remember. The putt, too, of course. But even from behind the 8th green, one could hear Kim – could feel Kim – from 150 yards away.
She had hit a searing tee shot onto the green, only to see it trickle into the bunker long. Kim’s bunker shot rolled past the pin and to the front edge fringe, fortunately stopping there. But she buried the putt back up the green for par, then buried her fist into the humid Pinehurst air. Morgan 3-putted, and the lead was two.
Another birdie on the par-5 10th – and another fist-pump, had Kim 3-up. But Morgan rifled her approach on 11 to 5 feet, her ball mark just inches from the cup. Kim played a beauty as well to about 10 feet.
Kim made it – another fist pump that could stop traffic on Morganton Road. Morgan’s putt lipped out harshly, and the lead was 4.
“It’s just become a habit from team play,” Kim said of the emotional release. “I noticed I started doing it a few years ago at the Junior Ryder Cup, the Junior Solheim Cup, and then finally at (the NCAA Championship in 2019). For me, those fist-pumps are worth way more than what most people would think. To me, that’s how the momentum changes. That’s how you maintain your confidence and keep your cool. I do that intentionally for myself, and I think because I had that kind of positive energy I was able to pull through to the end, even when Anna was making her comeback.”
Yes, Morgan’s comeback. The 2020 Carolinas Women’s Amateur Champion did not let Kim off easily. Her slick, 15-foot birdie down the hill on 13 was mesmerizing, and so too was her brilliant tee shot on the par-3 15th to 12 feet for another birdie. The trimmed Kim’s lead to 2-up.
“I really battled back,” Morgan said. “I played the last five holes in 3 under. I just wasn’t going to give up without a fight.”
Morgan made another birdie on 16 after a gutsy second shot from the native area to the right edge of the green.
But Kim curled in a tough putt from 7 feet to halve the hole – yes, she pumped her fist – sending the match to 17, where she let her clubs do the talking.
“I don’t think I can hear or see myself doing it, it comes out naturally,” Kim said. “Looking back, I’m like, ‘Oh shoot!’
“But it just comes out so naturally because I just wanted this so badly. And the fact that everything worked out the way I wanted it to, especially on a course like No. 2, you just can’t help but feel grateful that things worked out your way.”
For all the accolades – the 2019 NCAA Championship for Duke, the low amateur triumph at the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open, the ACC Championship this year – one thing had eluded Gina Kim.
The Putter Boy.
That’s worthy of some celebration.
By Alex Podlogar, Pinehurst Resort
ABOUT THE North & South Women's Amateur
The Women's North & South has drawn the top
amateur women from around the country. Three
rounds of stroke play followed by four rounds of
match play will determine the Champion.
The 96 player field will be cut to a 16 player
match play field and medalist honors. All stroke
match play rounds will be contested on Pinehurst
No. 2. The top 16 players who qualify for match
play will play two rounds a day until our
Nine of the last 12 North & South Women’s
Amateur champions have drawn paychecks as
members of the LPGA Tour. The equation is near
perfect. Win the North & South Am, go on to
professional success at the highest level.
North & South champions are among the legends
of the game: Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs,
Kirk Bell, Hollis Stacey, Brandie Burton, Brittany
Lang, Morgan Pressel and Yani Tseng.
Along with the Women's North & South,
Resort & Country Club annually plays host to the
Men's North & South, the Junior North & South,
and Senior Men's and Senior Women's North &
View Complete Tournament Information