October 6, 2008

LPGA Tour/ Longs Drugs Challenge

Kim is latest Korean to follow Pak's lead

Kim was the only player to start the week with three rounds in the 60s.

Kim was the only player to start the week with three rounds in the 60s.

When Inbee Park won the U.S. Women's Open at Interlachen CC near Minneapolis in June, she spoke about the rather impressive Korean class of 1988—those young women inspired by Si Re Pak's victory in the Women's Open in 1998, saying "[a lot of us here were] born in 1988." Since Park uttered those words, three more members of the class of 1988 have won LPGA events, the latest Sunday when In-Kyung Kim took the Longs Drugs Challenge by three strokes.

Kim, who won the 2005 U.S. Girls' Junior and was co-medalist at the 2006 LPGA Q school, closed with a pair of birdies to finish at 10-under-par 278. Her final-round 73 was good enough to hold off an impressive trio of challengers that included Angela Stanford (281), who won the Bell Micro LPGA Classic last month, Yani Tseng (282), the reigning McDonald's LPGA champion and Lorena Ochoa, a seven-time winner this year.

"I just couldn't go to bed [Saturday night]," said the 20-year-old Kim, who shot 67-69-69 the first three days. "I just kept thinking about what I was going to do tomorrow. I think I went through the course [in my mind] about 10 times at least. I think I slept like one or two hours."

With Tseng trailing by five and Ochoa by seven entering Sunday, Kim could focus her attention on Stanford, the 2000 TCU grad whose game has kicked into a higher gear this year. Both showed their nerves, Kim going out in 38 and Stanford in 40. The key came on No. 17 when Stanford rolled in a 10-footer for birdie to pull within a stroke, only to have Kim knock in an eight-footer on top of that to regain her two-shot margin going to the final hole.

Since Park won the U.S. Women's Open she has been joined in the winner's circle by Ji-Yai Shin at the Ricoh Women's British Open, Ji Young Oh at the State Farm Classic and now Kim. The victory was the seventh on the LPGA by six different Koreans this year. Seven events have been won by Americans (four of those by Paula Creamer) and seven by Mexicans (all of those by Ochoa).