Duke's Gina Kim tied for second after opening with 66 at U.S. Women's Open

Tim Cowie/ Duke Athletics

Duke's Gina Kim tied for second after opening with 66 at U.S. Women's Open

USGA

Duke's Gina Kim tied for second after opening with 66 at U.S. Women's Open

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CHARLESTON, S.C. – Gina Kim saved a video on her phone of the sensational fairway bunker shot she hit last week that propelled Duke into the finals of the NCAA Championship. She watched it moments before teeing off in the opening round of the 74th U.S. Women’s Open, just to remind herself that she was ready for anything.

Still riding the adrenaline of Duke’s seventh NCAA title, the 19-year-old Kim had enough highlights in her 5-under 66 to fill up her own top 10. Her round was inches away from being outrageously good, though it did tie the record for lowest round by an amateur in Women’s Open history.

She first holed a bunker shot on the par-3 17th hole to make the turn at 1 under. Kim then traded birdies with bogeys on the opening stretch of her back nine before putting her round in overdrive on the eighth hole, when she holed her approach for eagle from 141 yards out with an 8-iron.

“I didn’t even realize it went into the hole until people started screaming at the green,” she said. “So I think that was just a blessing. It just came out of nowhere, and I’m very grateful for it.”

WOMEN’S OPEN: Tee times, TV info

On her closing hole, the par-5 ninth, Kim took out 3-wood with a helping wind from 241 yards and nearly jarred it for an albatross. She settled for a two-putt birdie to climb within a shot of leader Mamiko Higa and take a share of second.

“I’ve been trying to calm myself down,” said Kim of the adrenaline that’s still coursing through her body from nationals, “just get myself together, get ready for this tournament. But obviously, winning a national title with my team was amazing. And being at the seventh one as well is even more – a bigger testament to what my team has been able to do.”

Kim, 19, has the perspective of an old soul and a smile full of braces that makes her oh-so endearing. Having this kind of moment at a major championship is next-level big for Kim. She’s confident and humble and wide-eyed all at once.

“Well this is fancy,” she said as she climbed up to the podium at the flash area. “I’ve never seen this before.”

It was Kim’s attitude that hooked Ben Sorrells, the Augusta National caddie who worked with her last April. They didn’t make it to the top 30 at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, and while Sorrells thought he’d only caddie in the inaugural ANWA, he couldn’t help but sign on to do it again with Kim next year. They have unfinished business, he said.

And when she asked if he’d caddie for her at the Country Club of Charleston, Sorrell’s regular boss on the web.com tour, Sam Love, told him he couldn’t pass it up.

In fact, when Sorrells checked his phone after Thursday’s round, it was Love who sent the first text message, attaching video from Kim’s holed bunker shot.

“You oughta stick with her,” Love wrote. “I shot 4 over today and you made Instagram on USGA.”

Both of Kim’s parents are Spanish professors at the University of North Carolina. Somehow, she joked, she ended up on the other side in Durham.

Kim said the windy conditions last week at the Blessings in Fayetteville, Ark., helped prepare her for this week. Not to mention her clutch play.

“It’s definitely helped me a lot more than I thought it would,” she said of NCAAs. “Just being able to hit that bunker shot out on 18 to be able to get my team into the finals, it really just helped me understand that, you know, I’m definitely ready and – I have all the skills I need to do what I need to do and just pull through.”

At this rate, she might need to upgrade the storage on her phone. The highlights seem endless.

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