Kim's Meal Ticket Includes Trip To Second Round
By Stuart Hall
Carmel, Ind. – With ample time before her late Wednesday afternoon starting time at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, Kimberly Kim indulged herself.
First, the defending champion helped herself to the free breakfast spread at Crooked Stick Golf Club. Later, she came back for the lunch fare.
She then worked up a hearty dinner appetite by outlasting Japanese-born Ayaka Kaneko of Honolulu, Hawaii, 1-up, in the first round of match play. Kim, 15, of Hilo, Hawaii, advances to Thursday’s second round against Rikako Morita, 17, of Japan, an easy 6-and-4 winner over Blair Lamb. Both Morita and Kim competed at the 2006 Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in South Africa.
On an afternoon when the mercury was pushing triple digits, Kim labored for the victory. Four times she took a 1-up lead only to have Kaneko square the match. Kim then took her final 1-up lead with a par at the 193-yard, par-3 17th. She won the match by halving the 412-yard, par-4 18th hole.
“My attitude – since I was playing Ayaka – after the first nine holes was if I lose this match, it was a great match,” Kim said. “We both played very well. Even if I won or lost, I couldn’t feel too bad. She shouldn’t feel bad because she played really well.”
Kaneko, though, could take little solace in losing a marquee match that could have easily been played later in the week.
In addition to winning last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur, Kim was runner-up at the 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and a quarterfinalist at this year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, where she dropped a 23-hole thriller to fellow Hawaiian Stephanie Kono.
Kaneko was runner-up at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, advanced to third round of the 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the quarterfinals a year ago.
“I’m very disappointed,” said the 17-year-old Kaneko. “I played solid, but Kim just made more putts. I had some chances, but I couldn’t make any putts.”
Kim, who reached match play with a 2-over 146 qualifying score, was hoping for a match that did not have quite the drama as Wednesday’s opener.
“It’s exhausting,” she said. “I’m like tired. It’s not good to have 18 holes with a late tee time and then wake up early. But we all have to do it, so it’s fair.”
Kim could have helped her own cause, but never quite strung together enough quality holes.
“I would win a hole and then do something stupid,” she said. “I thought the seventh hole was a turning point because I made a birdie and then I hit my drive into the water [at No. 8] and then I hit an iron into the water.
“Then I made birdie at 9 and thought that was a turning point.”
Kim then lost the 502-yard, par-5 11th – a hole that is not one of her favorites – with a par. A birdie won the 418-yard, par-4 14th, but she lost the No. 15 to Kaneko’s birdie.
By the time Kim walked off the 18th green with the sun beginning to set, she was ready for dinner.
“They should make me a takeout lunch box for dinner,” said Kim, though dinner is not served to the players.
At least she can come back Thursday for breakfast.
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer with the Golf Press Association whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship Web sites.