CLEVELAND -- Hyo-Joo Kim continued her birdie barrage today in her first-round match at the USGA Women's Amateur at The Country Club. The 17-year old Korean quickly defeated Megan Khang of Rockland, MA, 7 and 6 after making five birdies in her first seven holes, then finishing with five par. Prior to match play, Kim claimed medalist honors in the 36-hole qualifying rounds with back-to-back 68s for an eight-under total.
"Putting is my strength right now," said Hyo-Joo through her caddie and translator, Euna Pak. "I really like the greens here." Kim read most of the greens herself, with only minor help from Euna when needed. "I only help when she asks," added Euna, who seemed pleased with how easy her job has been so far.
Kim has made 16 birdies through only 48 holes this week. If her putter stays this hot, her opponents will certainly have a tough time keeping up. Last year, Kim was an alternate at the Women's Amateur at Rhode Island Country Club. Her play since then is proving that her failure to fully qualify last year was simply a minor hiccup in her otherwise impressive career.
Last month, Kim finished T-4 at the Evian Masters, a major in 2013, and slightly ahead of accomplished LPGA veterans like Paula Creamer, Se Ri Pak, and Christy Kerr. Kim fired four rounds in the 60s and finished only three shots back of winner and 2008 U.S. Open champion, Inbee Park, in her attempt to be the first amateur to win an LPGA event in 43 years.
"I love the LPGA events," said Hyo-Joo, who also played in the LPGA LOTTE Championship in Hawaii in April, where she finished T-12. "I learned a lot and had a lot of fun. Evian is a big event that gave me a lot of confidence."
With her LPGA finishes, Kim could already be a very rich girl. However, she plans to make her professional debut this October at the LPGA Hannabank Championship in Incheon, Korea, making this week her first and last shot at a title in this event.
Despite her lack of experience with match play, Kim appears likely to still be around this weekend. "This course fits my eye. I really like it here," she said.
Those are scary words for anyone who happens to play the top-seeded Kim this week. Next up is Isabelle Lendl, the 2012 Women's Eastern Amateur champion and daughter of tennis great Ivan Lendl.