LPGA rookie, Hyo Joo Kim won the jtbc Founders Cup at the Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix, Arizona, by three shots against the toughest kind of test she could have had: Stacy Lewis. Always a threat to win any tournament she plays, Lewis finished 3rd and T2 in the first two tournaments of the year in Asia and T11 and T8 in the next two.
But then, even though Kim is a rookie and not well known, she came into the tournament ranked No. 8 in the Rolex World Golf Rankings. And with this win, she moves up to No. 4. Much of that was due to winning the 2014 Evian Championship, its first as a major. Perhaps that tournament quietly being played in France contributed to Kim coming in under the radar. But there’s no doubt whether this win was some kind of fluke.
There are so many stereotypes about the character traits necessary to win golf tournaments, but humility probably isn’t at the top of the list. Kim is nothing if not humble.
Asked what the key to her victory was, her answer simply oozed of genuine humility:
In the morning I wasn’t concentrating on winning because I was playing with Stacy Lewis and as a rookie, I just felt that by playing with her, I would learn a lot from her. So I was just trying to make a good impression as a rookie.
Yup, it wasn’t me. I was just fortunate enough to be playing with the great Stacy Lewis. Oh, and by the way, I was able to learn something from the great Stacy Lewis:
I have played with her about twice before. What really stands out about her game is her short game, and so every time I play with someone like Stacy who is really good in an area like that, you just try and watch and learn from them.
So what would she like people unfamiliar with her to know?
I don’t necessarily have anything like that. If I were a more established player I would feel more comfortable but I’m still new. I just want to keep making a good impression.
Stacy Lewis was being her standard competitive self; would we expect anything less from her? So did that make Kim nervous during the round?
Well, it’s impossible not to feel a little pressure or nervous, especially when your playing partner is playing so well.
If anything, I think the situation on hole 10 [being denied relief from bees and forced to play on] helped because after I went through there and I got a bogey, I just realized there’s no time to feel pressure or feel afraid. I’ve just got to go out there and play.
And finally, the conversation turned to the robust rookie class of Koreans who have made quite a splash so far this year, including Sei Young Kim who won the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic. And once again, Kim demurred :
Well, I’m a rookie, too, so I don’t have time to think too much about it. But I have known these players from since we used to play on the Korean ladies tour, and I know how good they can be. In fact, everyone on the LPGA Tour is really good, otherwise they wouldn’t be here. So I’m just trying to find my place.
And as she finds her way to that place, perhaps she’ll be able to see her larger role in that class. But then maybe she wouldn’t be herself so much anymore. And after today, we know, and she knows, that who she is now is perfectly sufficient to win on the LPGA Tour.