Front-Row Seat Provides Incentive For Kim

Runner-up played with champion Park final two days

I.K. Kim never could catch good friend and fellow Korean Inbee Park at Sebonack Golf Club at this week's U.S. Women's Open. (USGA/John Mummert)
By Dave Shedloski
June 30, 2013

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – I.K. Kim displayed a winning formula in the 68th U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club.

She shot 4-under-par 284 on an exacting layout and was one of only three players to break par for the championship. She was among the top 10 in the two ball striking categories as she missed just four fairways in four days and hit 52 of 72 greens in regulation, third-best overall. She made 17 birdies on a demanding course that wasn’t yielding them easily.

No question, Kim played like a champion.

The only problem was that Inbee Park played even better, and it was Park who won her second Women’s Open and third straight major championship of the year. Kim, with a final-round 74, had to settle for her third runner-up finish in a major championship and second runner-up of the year.

“You know, it’s difficult because you know what you have to do. I want to play my game, but you can't really avoid how many shots I’m behind and things like that,” said Kim, who began the day four behind Park, briefly cut it to three with a birdie at the second hole but then couldn’t sustain the pace. “I just played with everything I’ve got, and that’s all I can really do.”

Kim said Park, who finished at 8-under 280, looked comfortable – and with five wins in her pocket coming in, she should have been – but Kim thinks she might have helped her opponent. After making a birdie at the second hole, Kim bogeyed the fourth, sixth and seventh – at the same time Park was making two bogeys. She never got closer.

“I think I could push her a little bit more. I just felt like I had some momentum,” said Kim, who has finished in the top five in three of her last four events.

History is something Kim also had going for her. Kim, 25, who like Park is from Korea, won the 2005 U.S. Girls’ Junior. Her opponent in the final was Park. Kim triumphed, 5 and 4, at BanBury Golf Club in Eagle, Idaho.

Park is clearly on a roll now, though, while Kim had to settle for her fourth top-4 finish in the U.S. Women’s Open in eight appearances and a runner-up check of $350,000. She enjoyed playing head-to-head with Park in the final group over the final two days, and thinks she might have learned a few things during the windy weekend on Long Island.

“I kind of like playing in the final group. I think it’s going to be a good experience. It’s my first time actually finishing second, and I didn't know I would get this thing,” Kim said, tugging on the silver medal hanging around her neck. “I think it’s a nice souvenir. So I'm very happy, you know? Just little disappointed because, I mean, it’s the U.S. Open. But I’m really happy with everything.”

“You can obviously feel for someone like I.K. Kim who would be winning any other U.S. Open on this golf course if it weren't for Inbee,” said two-time champion Karrie Webb. “She's played great too. Sometimes it's just not good enough when someone is as hot as Inbee is.”

Kim’s runner-up finishes have come in three different majors, including last year at the Kraft Nabisco when she missed a one-foot putt on the 72nd hole. A three-time winner on the LPGA Tour, Kim isn’t disheartened. Instead, she figures her time will come in a major.

“Yeah, to be honest, yeah, it's time to win it, but I think things have to come naturally,” Kim said. “It’s great to play with Inbee, and she’s doing so well. Seeing her doing it, it just makes me want it more.”

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work previous has appeared on USGA websites.

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