Notre Dame, Ind. – When 18-year-old Kimberly Kim, the 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, tees off in the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont Country Club on July 8, it will be as a professional.
Kim, of Hilo, Hawaii, announced today that she is leaving the amateur ranks and turning professional before the Women’s Open. It’s a decision she made after assembling a collection of USGA records and medals that is startling for one so young.
I wish I could set some more records, said Kim, but I’m excited to move on to the next level. But I’ll miss match play.
Match play was Kim’s forte. One of her most memorable performances was as a 14-year-old in the 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Pumpkin Ridge G.C. in North Plains, Ore. In the 36-hole final against Katharina Schallenberg, 26, of Germany, Kim was 5 holes down after 15 holes. Playing what her caddie termed, smash-mouth golf, Kim rallied and took the lead at the 30th hole. At the 36th, she watched Schallenberg make a 25-foot birdie putt from the fringe. Kim then ran in her own 5-foot birdie putt to seal the victory and become the youngest winner in the history of the 105-year-old championship.
After seeing a television advertisement for that week’s Women’s Amateur Championship, Kim said, I guess this is a pretty big tournament.
In 2007, Kim shot a 62 in stroke-play qualifying for the U.S. Girls’ Junior, tying Christina Kim’s 2001 record for the lowest score in a USGA female amateur championship.
Kim was runner-up in three USGA championships: the 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, where she lost to Tiffany Joh, 6 and 5; the 2009 Women’s Amateur Public Links where she was defeated by Jennifer Song, 6 and 5; and the 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior, where Amy Anderson defeated her in the final, 6 and 5.
As a member of victorious USA Curtis Cup teams in 2008 and 2010, Kim has a 3-0-3 Curtis Cup record.
Kimberly has been an outstanding amateur golfer, said Barbara Douglas, chairman of the USGA Women’s Committee. She is the youngest Women's Amateur champion, holds numerous scoring records, and has been a member of two winning USA Curtis Cup Teams. We’re going to miss her at our amateur championships.
While not a member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, Kim, like Laura Davies in 1987, is eligible for prize money at the Women’s Open. In 1987, Davies won the Women’s Open but was not a member of the LPGA. The LPGA later granted Davies full membership for her achievement.
Kim attended the University of Denver (Colo.) for one year. She said she hopes to one day earn a college degree but the influx of new young players on the LPGA Tour influenced her decision to turn professional.
What I learned from college is that what I really want to do with my time is play golf, she said. Most of my goals in life correlate with golf. A lot of great young players are turning professional and if I stayed in school another three years I’d fall behind even more.