2004: Young Goliath Kim an Olympic force
By Graham Elliott
The 57th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, which featured a David-and-Goliath final 18-hole match, will go down as the junior where youth prevailed.
David Chung, a 14-year-old from Fayetteville, N.C., who is 105 pounds soaking wet, sought to become youngest junior champion; and Sihwan Kim, 15, from Fullerton, Calif., and almost twice the size of his foe, was looking to become the second youngest champion.
In the end, Kim held off Chung July 24 for a thrilling 1-up victory.
“This will definitely raise my confidence level,” Kim said.
As for the 2004 U.S. Junior runner-up, he also was pleased with his first junior showing.
“I think it was a relief just to get here. I tried my best and as long as I did that, I’m happy,” Chung said. “My original goal before this week was just to make the quarterfinals and I have a lot more confidence now.”
Having never met before the Junior Amateur, the pair will face each other this week in the AJGA Hp Boys Junior at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Fla. And then possibly a rematch at the U.S. Amateur Aug. 16-22 at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
In reaching the finals, Kim defeated No. 1-ranked junior and defending champion, Brian Harman, 17, of Savannah, Ga., in the quarterfinals, 1 up. He then beat Jon Curran, 17, of Hopkinton, Mass., 3 and 2.
Chung won six of his last eight holes to knock out Robert Riesen of Pinehurst, N.C., in 19 holes in the quarterfinals. Chung then defeated 17-year-old Sung Kang of Korea, in his semifinals. Kang was a little over a week removed from his semifinal match loss at the U.S. Amateur Public Links to eventual champion Ryan Moore.
After having a nightmare about missing his tee time in the finale, Kim, found himself down 1 hole early. No, Kim did not miss his tee time. He just lost the first to a Chung birdie.
“Yesterday afternoon he was 5 down with seven holes to go and I knew he would be strong at the end,” said Kim.
Even through three holes, Kim made a birdie at No. 4 to go 1 up, before making double bogey on No. 5 to level the match. Chung, who was amazing all week with the flat stick, surprisingly three-putted Nos. 5, 6 and 9 for bogey. Kim made pars at Nos. 6 and 9 to take a 2-up lead at the turn.
“On some of those putts, I wasn’t committed all the way,” said Chung, who will be taking three
classes this fall at a local junior college in North Carolina, while being homeschooled in ninth grade. “I was unsure of the line and on some, unsure of the speed.”
Chung (No. 10) and Kim (No. 12) exchanged birdies to keep the match at 2 up in Kim’s favor.
“That birdie on No. 12 really helped me and if it wasn’t for that, you never know what would have happened,” Kim said.
Chung won No. 14 when he made par to Kim’s bogey, but the teen, who was trying to erase Tiger Woods’ name as the youngest champion, couldn’t get any closer.
One down on the 18th hole, Chung, who had three victories come on the final hole, outdrove Kim off the tee and knocked a wedge from 114 yards to 6 feet. After watching Kim roll his long birdie attempt past, Chung had one last chance to extend the match, but his putt would miss by inches. Kim then rolled in his 4-foot par putt for the 1-up victory.
“It was such a relief, after I won I was just like blank, I could not say anything, I could not smile, I couldn’t believe I had just won this tournament,” said Kim, who moved to the United States in 2000 from Korea. “When I won the L.A. City (Amateur) it was in the newspapers (in Korea) and my family was going crazy about it, and this tournament is greater than the L.A. City.”
With the victory, Kim who was 22 days older than Woods was when he won the 1991 Junior Amateur at 15 years 6 months and 28 days, becomes the second youngest champion.
“It feels great to have my name on there (the trophy),” said Kim as he looked at Woods’ name on the trophy. “I hope I can get to the PGA Tour like Tiger and be a top-10 player in the world.”
The victory also makes Kim exempt for more than just next year’s Junior. Kim received exemptions into all of the remaining U.S. Juniors for which he is eligible, the 2004 and 2005 U.S. Amateur, and the 2005 and 2006 U.S. Public Links Championship. He also is exempt from local qualifying for the next three U.S. Opens.