Big numbers rarely plague Kim Kaufman’s scorecard. It’s not colorful, but steady instead.
Kaufman, a senior at Texas Tech, took the top spot in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings at the end of the fall season. That effort was aided largely by her victory at the Landfall Tradition on Oct. 28. Kaufman shot 5-under 67 at the Country Club of Landfall in gusty conditions caused by an approaching Hurricane Sandy. The storm wiped out the rest of the tournament, leaving Kaufman with the victory after her remarkable first round. She had one birdie on the back nine (she started on No. 10), four on the front and no bogeys. It was “the ideal round.”
“We all knew it might be the only round that counted,” Kaufman said of the tournament. It was the first victory of her college career, and long overdue. The 17-team field consisted of seven teams in the top 20 in Golfweek’s final rall ranking.
You might say Kaufman was made for a No. 1 ranking. She has a habit of always being first – first to answer a team email, show up for a practice session or complete any other task requested by head coach JoJo Robertson. Together with teammate Gabby Dominguez, Kaufman also became the first player in program history last spring to earn All-American honors. Both players were on the honorable mention list.
“When I think of Kim, I think of somebody that is just on top of things,” Robertson said. “She is so organized and so determined to get everything done.”
Kaufman pulled up roots in South Dakota four years ago to join Robertson’s squad. It was a move necessary to her game since it meant she rarely has to put her clubs away for cold weather. When making her college decision, Kaufman also looked seriously at the University of Illinois, but it was still too far north.
“I had to go where it was warm,” she said.
Playing golf year-round instead of taking a break was a change to which Kaufman had to adjust, but it wasn’t even the biggest change. Her hometown, Clark, S.D., has a population of 1,000 people, no stoplights and the closest Wal-Mart is 30 miles away. More than 30,000 students attend Texas Tech.
Kaufman’s northern upbringing was crucial to her golf roots, however. She can remember running around Clark Golf Course, the nine-hole facility just two blocks from her home, with older sister Ashley. They didn’t need a tee time, and no locals questioned two young girls spending so much time on the course. When Kaufman goes home from college in the summers, she works at Elmwood Golf Course, an 18-hole facility in nearby Sioux Falls, S.D.
Kaufman also still has a swing coach at home in Tod Kolb. She and Kolb have worked together since they met at a junior golf clinic when Kaufman was 5 years old. She speaks with Kolb frequently, and only realized how lucky she is to have such an involved coach when she got to college, and realized not every player had the luxury.
Together with Kolb, Kaufman has developed a game based on consistency. She keeps the ball in play.
“She doesn’t make many mistakes,” Robertson said. “She’s so steady she can go and have 15 pars and 3 birdies.”
Since Kaufman arrived at Texas Tech, Robertson has watched Kaufman develop a better ability to commit to a shot and have confidence in it. Robertson names the strengths of her game as ball-striking and putting. On the green, Kaufman is a good bet from inside 20 feet.
Winning her first collegiate victory was a breakthrough for Kaufman.
“It’s been a goal since I got here,” she said. “. . . My time is running out.”
The No. 1 ranking, however, came as a surprise. Kaufman thought she was still No. 2 at the end of the season, but her mom Teresa called to tell her the good news. That also was a goal, and it’s a humbling thing to be the best player in college golf entering the offseason.
Kaufman uses the word momentum in reference to the summer that led up to the eventual top ranking. It began with a T-8 at the NCAA Championship as an individual. She then advanced to the semifinals at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, finished third at the Canadian Women’s Amateur and defended her title at the South Dakota Women’s Amateur. It was the most successful summer of her career to date, with “good round after good round.”
“It was exactly where I wanted to be,” she said.
Kaufman has one more semester as a Red Raider, and at the end of it she hopes to find herself in contention at the national championship. After that, she expects starts at the Women’s Amateur Public Links and Canadian Women’s Amateur to follow, and possibly an amateur event or two in Europe. She’ll enter LPGA Q-School next fall.
In the meantime, Robertson is expecting big things, too.
“It will be exciting to see how she plays the spring with that first win under her belt,” she said. “She doesn’t have to worry about that anymore.”