WAPL: Kim defeats Ramsey for first USGA title

Kyung Kim

Kyung Kim

NESHANIC STATION, N.J. – Ashlan Ramsey and Kyung Kim put on a terrific show on a day when women across this nation celebrated sport. The two teens ended a marathon of matches at Neshanic Valley, playing 34 holes on another warm but pleasant day in central New Jersey. For those who think golf doesn’t require athleticism, try playing nine competitive rounds in six days in extreme heat.

Title IX, a law that stipulates gender equity be enforced for boys and girls in every education program that receives federal funding, was passed on this date, 40 years ago. The law wasn’t written specifically for college athletics, but sports have been the most well-known beneficiary.

Kim and Ramsey, two college-bound athletes who eventually want to play golf for a living, combined for 18 birdies in 34 holes. Kim, a soon-to-be freshman at Southern Cal, was 6 under for the day and defeated Ramsey, 4 and 2. Ramsey, a 16-year-old rising senior from Milledgeville, Ga., was 3 under.

“I finally did it: won a national championship," Kim said. "It’s pretty amazing. My hard work paid off.”

Kim, 18, hadn’t won a tournament since 2008, and Ramsey, Golfweek’s fifth-ranked junior, wasn’t among the favorites heading into the week. But the consistent play of these two teens shows the depth that has emerged at what is considered the weakest field of the USGA’s three big women’s amateur championships (U.S. Amateur, U.S. Girls’ Junior and WAPL). When the big names bowed out early, these two proved there still was plenty of talent left in the field. Though this is not an NCAA-sponsored event, there’s no question that college athletics have strengthened the field.

Clemson coach J.T. Horton was in the gallery on Saturday to watch Ramsey, a player who has committed to helping start that program in the fall of 2013. Thanks to the six full scholarships that are available to Division I women's teams, Horton should have no problem building a program that can contend quickly.

“I’ve been playing really well coming into this weekend,” Ramsey said. “I knew what I was capable of. It was just kind of proving myself and proving that I’m capable of finishing well.”

Ramsey’s morning got off to a rough start when she left the hotel 30 minutes later than originally planned (mom was packing). She felt rushed and nervous on the first tee and bogeyed the first three holes. Kim bogeyed Nos. 1 and 3, and it wasn’t until both birdied the par-5 fourth hole that they found a groove. Ramsey birdied three of the next four holes, and Kim birdied Nos. 9-12. Kim went to lunch with a 1-up lead.

On the second round, the two got off to another sluggish start, recording their first birdies again on No. 4. The lead never exceeded two holes throughout the day, and Kim put the pedal down with a birdie on No. 14 to take a 2-up lead. She birdied the 15th from 9 feet for added emphasis.

Ramsey, 3 down with three to play, missed the green to the right on No. 16 and hit a poor chip shot.

“I felt like I could get it back until I hit that chip,” she said.

Ramsey started wearing red, white and blue in the final round last May. The Georgian often feels like one of the few Americans in a field, so she plays up the patriotic theme. Today’s outfit featured a stars-and-stripes skort. She said her dad was once in the Army.

Kim’s father, Douglas, emigrated from South Korea to Alaska many years ago. He then went back to Korea and met his bride before moving the family to Hawaii. Kim was born in Hawaii but moved to Chandler, Ariz., where the family owns a smoke shop.

Douglas Kim was on the bag this week, and waved his hands wildly when Kim’s putts either dropped or narrowly missed the hole. She took great amusement in his reactions. He’s usually spectating and out of Kim’s line of vision.

Kim was an alternate into July’s U.S. Women’s Open until she recently got a call. She’ll be teeing it up at Blackwolf Run in two weeks for her second Women’s Open appearance. After that, she’ll head to Korea for the first time in eight years. The Women’s Open will be her last tournament of the summer, even though today’s victory exempts her into the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

“Just staying away from golf until I go to college,” Kim said, “because I know there will be a lot of tournaments ahead of me.”

A lifetime’s worth, if she chooses.

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