Two-time B.C. Junior Girls champion is one of eight Canadians in field
By Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun November 26, 2012
VANCOUVER — It’s a long way from Langley to the LPGA Tour, but Sue Kim thinks she is ready to complete the journey.
It’s a trip that began more than seven years ago when a then shy 14 year old holed a 5-iron from 150 yards to eagle the par 4 14th hole at Sandpiper Golf Course en route to the first of two B.C. Junior Girls championships.
That’s when the pro golf dream really began for Kim, who on Wednesday will tee it up in the first round of the final stage of LPGA Tour qualifying school in Daytona Beach, Fla.
She’s been here before. Kim has played two previous LPGA Tour Q schools, but this isn’t so much about being third time lucky. More like third time ready.
Kim, now 21, and a pro for just two years, thinks she is much more prepared to take that next step and join the big league of women’s golf.
This past year was Kim’s first full season on the Symetra Tour, the feeder circuit of the LPGA Tour. She didn’t attain her goal of finishing in the top 10 on the money list and earning a LPGA Tour card, but she did have a solid season.
In 16 starts, she missed only two cuts and had four top-10 finishes. She earned just over $22,000 and finished 23rd on the money list. More importantly, she gained confidence and learned some things about being a pro.
“This year was a real learning experience for me,” the Walnut Grove secondary graduate said over the phone from Florida. “It was my first time playing on a tour for a full season and I had my mom with me which was a great support. I was able to focus on golf and not worry about all the other stuff that comes with travelling.
“I did play a lot better and I think my course management really improved. I had some top 10s and shot a lot of under-par scores. I just felt like my play was a lot more consistent.”
Consistency will be a buzzword for Kim when the 90-hole pressure-cooker that is Q school begins on Wednesday. In her first two trips to Q school, Kim learned that it is an entirely different beast than regular tournament golf.
“It sure is,” said Kim, who also made the cut at this year’s U.S. Women’s Open. “You want to play offence, shoot as good a score as you can, but you also have to play defence. You want to play a game where you are not making any mistakes, but you also have to be aggressive at times to get the birdies that you want. So it’s really different.
“I think it’s really good to have a caddy that can help you know when to be aggressive and when not to be and I think I’ve found one.”
Kim is one of eight Canadians at final stage, joining Samantha Richdale of Kelowna, Kirby Dreher of Fort St. John, Quebec’s Izzy Beisiegel and Ontario natives Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Seema Sadekar, Stephanie Sherlock and Ashley Sholer.
The goal is to finish in the top 20, which earns you exempt status for 2013. There are two conditional categories for competitors finishing between 21st and 40th.
“Last year I played well the first two days but then couldn’t really handle the whole five-day pressure,” said Kim, who finished tied for 64th at final stage in 2011. “I don’t think I was ready. But that was a great learning experience also.”
Q school is played each year on the Legends and Champions courses at LPGA International Golf Club. Kim, who has moved to Florida full-time, played some mini-tour events there this year and now feels like she knows both courses well.
“The Champions course is a little bit more open and a little bit longer,” she said. “Some of the bigger hitters can go at the par 5s and it’s more wide open, so it’s easier to score I’d say. The Legends course is really tough, very narrow and really tricky. The Bermuda rough is very thick on both courses and is really hard to deal with when you are off the greens, so ball-striking is very important.
“And both courses have the beach wind. It’s right on the water so the wind is blowing all the time.”