Notebook: Kim Enjoying American Culture
By Ken Klavon, USGA
North Plains, Ore. – A little more than a year ago, In-Kyung Kim sashayed into the U.S. Girls’ Junior media center after winning the championship and had trouble making sense of the questions being asked of her.
The Korean-born Kim could recite little more than the lyrics to 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” then. What a difference a year makes. The reserved Kim still struggles with her English, but she’s made a concerted effort to learn the language.
“I have lots of friends, many friends and I’m better now,” she said after posting a 1-under 70 Monday at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club's Witch Hollow Course that put her in a tie for fourth after the first round of stroke-play qualifying for the 2006 U.S. Women's Amateur. “I’m trying to learn by text messaging” on her cell phone.
Living now with an uncle in Marriottsville, Md., she has also adapted to American cuisine, citing pizza as a favorite but inexplicably denouncing french fries. She scrunched up her face when the mention of an American staple was brought up.
Traveling has had the greatest impact. Last week’s American Junior Golf Association's Canon Cup at Conway Farms in suburban Chicago made an impression on her, calling it one of her favorite places to visit so far.
Last year she made it to the quarterfinals in the Women’s Amateur after carving out medalist honors. She played in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Newport (R.I.) Country Club, failing to go beyond the second round after shooting 12 over. But it’s the Girls’ Junior that put her name on the map in America.
“Players recognize me. I’ve met other people. They like talking to me,” said Kim, comically pointing out that she’s “not a star.”
One part of her routine hasn’t changed. She still calls her father back in Korea, as he is a fervent follower of her career. In fact, prior to talking to a reporter she had just hung up with him, glowing in his praise to play well again Tuesday.
Sometimes old habits are hard to break.
Margaret Shirley could breathe easier when she walked off the course Monday. After last year’s self-professed debacle at Ansley Golf Club in Roswell, Ga., just six miles from her home, she was pleased to hold a share of the first-round lead.
Last year she followed up a first-day 73 with a horrific 89 to naturally miss the cut. Monday’s 69 exorcised any lingering fears.
“It’s better than being six miles from my house last year,” said Shirley, a round of 16 qualifier in 2004. “The hometown pressure got to me.”
The middle child of a golf course superintendent, the 20-year-old Shirley is no slouch. Recently she won the Georgia Women’s Open and achieved All-Southeastern Conference second-team honors in her sophomore year at Auburn University.
This week her 14-year-old sister, Laura, is on her bag. On one hand, it’s made it easier to continue a longtime superstition of having to talk to her each night before she plays. But on the other, she wouldn’t say that little sis is exactly savvy when it comes to club selection and reading greens.
“I’m glad we didn’t get into a fistfight,” said Shirley. “She’s 14; we’ll have our occasional quarrel every now and then.”
How’d He Get In?
While on the topic of caddies, Ryan Svenson of nearby Scappoose, Ore., is a rarity this week. As far as the club knows, he’s the only non-member or non-family member to be looping for a player.
The genial Svenson coaches basketball, football and girls golf at Scappoose High School. He’s on the bag of 20-year-old Annie Giangrosso, who plays at the University of Kansas.
“It’s been real fun,” said Svenson, impressed at the quality of play.
This isn’t the first caddie gig for Svenson, who admitted he does little more than lug around Giangrosso’s clubs. He said he recently caddied for former National Basketball Association players Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler in a pro-am event.
“Barkley’s horrible,” he said laughing. “He was all over the place.”
Svenson doesn’t expect to be invited to any of Barkley’s soirees in the future.
Nineteen-year-old Lauren Hunt shot 5-over 76 Monday, helped by an eagle on Witch Hollow Course’s longest par 5, the 562-yard seventh hole. With 95 yards to the flagstick, she grabbed a gap wedge and watched as the ball hopped once and disappeared into its destination.
Current U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Jenny Shin, 13, seemed pleased with her 2-over-par 73. The course’s difficulty wasn’t lost on her, though.
“It was taxing,” said the freshman-to-be at Torrance (Calif.) High School. “It was tough.”
And the last reigning Girls’ Junior champion to make it into match play would be? In-Kyung Kim, last year’s Women's Amateur medalist.
Hanging In There
MacKinzie Kline, 14, won’t let her 12-over 83 deter her from coming back and trying again Tuesday. Kline was granted permission to use a cart this week because of a congenial heart condition. She takes oxygen between holes and sometimes between shots.
“I definitely play very well,” she said, finding that she needed to hit woods more often than she would have liked.
According to her Web site, Kline has what is described as Single Ventricle with transposition of the greater vessels. Her liver is transverse, meaning it is on the left side of her body. She also has aspleenia, which means she was born without a spleen. Oxygenated blood from the lung flows in the wrong direction, causing poor oxygenation to the body. She underwent two open-heart surgeries by the time she turned 2. She is scheduled to undergo a non-invasive procedure immediately after the Women’s Amateur.Ken Klavon is the USGA's Web Editor. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.