PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Like many young golfers, Doug Ghim picked up the game at an early age.
When he was 5 years old, his dad Jeff, who was a teaching professional, took him to Twin Lakes Golf Club, a nine-hole course near their house in Arlington Heights, Ill. It was there that the younger Ghim would spend hours on the driving range hitting balls into the water.
“That’s where I learned to play,” said Doug Ghim, who is T-5 after the first round of the Junior Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. He shot even-par 72 Friday at the Stadium Course.
But unlike so many kids his age, Doug Ghim was not allowed to play tournaments. Jeff Ghim wanted his son to learn the fundamentals and develop his game mentally. He didn’t want his son to jump right into competition and get rattled.
Doug Ghim understood, but that still didn’t make him any more patient.
“I bugged him every, single day,” Doug Ghim said. “We would come home from the golf course and I’d ask him, ‘Dad, when’s my first tournament?’ He kept saying that I wasn’t ready yet.”
Instead, Jeff Ghim would take Doug out on the course and put him in tournament situations. The pressure came from incentives. If his son made a certain shot or putt, he would buy him a new driver. If he shot a certain score, he would get him an Xbox. Those were just some of the examples.
“They were things that I really wanted,” Doug Ghim said. “My dad would say, ‘Well, you have to play for them.”
Seven years went by from the time that Doug Ghim first stepped on a driving range to the moment he heard the words he’d longed to hear from his dad: “You’re ready.”
Doug Ghim played in his first tournament at age 12 – and won it. Since then, Ghim’s junior career has taken off. He’s one of the top-ranked golfers in the country (No. 9 by Golfweek) and has won numerous tournaments, including the Illinois State Junior last year. He also qualified for match play at this year’s U.S. Junior Amateur.
For most of his opening round at the Stadium Course, Ghim played like the confident, mistake-free golfer that first convinced his dad to let him start playing tournaments. He was 4 under after 15 holes and had built a two-shot lead over the field heading into the final three holes.
But at the par-5 16th, Ghim, who made three consecutive birdies on Nos. 10-12, found the water twice and ended up with triple-bogey. He closed with a bogey at No. 18 to drop back to even – two shots back of leaders Jim Liu and Robby Shelton.
“It was just one hole,” Ghim said. “I felt like I lost all of my momentum after that. It knocked the wind out of my sails. I worked hard to get those birdies and to give them back on one hole gets you a little deflated.
“But I hit the ball great, made a couple of putts, hit some great wedge shots and I hope to continue that tomorrow.”
After all, that’s what his dad taught him as a kid: Shake off the bad and focus on the good.
And that “good” could lead to Ghim capturing another tournament come Sunday.