SAN FRANCISCO--Sihwan Kim might not be a member of Olympic Club, like two of the 64 players that made it to match play at the 107th U.S. Amateur Championship. Still, the 18 year-old incoming Stanford freshman looked right at home on the famed club's Lake course after defeating Marius Thorp, 1 up, in his first-round match Wednesday. The victory runs his win streak on the 6,929-yard, par-70 layout to seven straight matches, having gone 6-0 while claiming the U.S. Junior title here three summers ago.
"This course is hard," Kim said afterward. "I have a tough time playing this course."
Funny, you could have fooled me. Kim shot the equivalent of four-under-par 66 versus Thorp, a native of Norway who was the low amateur at the 2006 British Open. After jumping to a 4-up lead through five holes, Kim looked like he was going to runaway with the match, only to watch Thorp chip away at the lead. Kim never made a bogey, though, and holed a 4Â¿-foot par putt on the 18th to close out the match.
In the process, Kim became the closest thing the Bay Area has to a hometown favorite remaining in the field after Joseph Bramlett and Randy Haag bowed out during the first round.
Bramlett, junior member at Olympic Club and a sophomore-to-be at Stanford, had a 2-up lead on U.S. Walker Cup team member Chris Kirk through 13 holes, only to eventually lose the match on the 19th hole. Kirk struggled with his ball striking--hitting just six fairways and nine greens--but hung around thanks to a hot putter. After holing a 30-foot birdie try on the 14th hole, he made a clutch 12-foot par saving putt on the 15th to square the match.
The two took turns chopping it around the last two holes. Bramlett's approach shot on the 491-yard 17th found a horrible lie in the thick rough left of the green. Trying to chip on with his third shot, he hit under the ball and fail to advance it, letting Kirk win the hole with a bogey. On the 347-yard 18th, Kirk repaid the favor when his 9-iron approach shot plugged in the greenside bunker, resulting in a double bogey to extend the match to extra holes.
Kirk closed it out with a birdie on the par-5 first hole after coming up just short of the green in two while Bramlett could make no better than par.
"We had two totally different types of rounds," said Kirk. "I just kept plugging along. I feel with my game, I can make up ground even if I'm not totally on."
"I knew it was going to be a tough match," Bramlett said, having hit 10 of 15 fairways and 12 of 19 greens.
Haag, a 48-year-old Olympic Club member, also watched a late lead slip away. One-up on the 16th tee versus Derek Fathauer, he lost that hole to a birdie, then made a double-bogey 6 on the 18th to drop the match, 1 up.
"I haven't been able to play this hole for 23 years," Haag joked afterward.
When Kim was last playing a USGA event in the Bay Area in 2004, he was two inches shorter and a bit chubbier. "It looks like I've grown a lot but that's just because I've lost a lot of baby fat," he said.
Suffice it to say, Olympic Club brings back good memories even if the Lake course still seems a bit intimidating to the Buena Park, Calif., native. "It gives me a lot of confidence. If I just remember what I did that week. I just tried to think of good memories about specific holes. I think it helps me a lot."
Interesting, Chris Kirk only learned that he had drawn Joseph Bramlett 20 minutes before the match's 10:10 a.m. tee time. Kirk was eating breakfast in the clubhouse when Walker Cup teammate Colt Knost phoned him.
"It's funny because usually I don't warm up for much more than 20, 30 minutes," Kirk said. "This was the one time I was hoping to spend a little time working on my swing. I wasn't hitting it very well yesterday afternoon either. I need to go to the range and work things out. Hopefully I can find a friend to watch me and tell me what I'm doing wrong."
While Kirk advanced, not all his fellow Walker Cuppers fared as well. Webb Simpson, a semifinalist at the 2006 U.S. Amateur, fell to Alabama rising senior Michael Thompson, 4 and 3. Thompson made five birdies and one bogey to Simpson's three birdies and two bogeys. Billy Horschel also lost to high school senior Derek Ernst of Clovis, Calif., 4 and 3, as did Dustin Johnson, who bowed out to 35-year-old__Ricky Jones__, 1 up.
](http://www.hokiesports.com/golf/)'s dream of becoming the first player since 1967 to win the British Amateur and U.S. Amateur in the same year ended when he lost to Penn State's Travis Howe, 4 and 3.
George Zahringer, 54, defeated__Gary Wolstenholme__, 47, in the battle of the aged, winning the match 1 up. It wasn't pretty, though. Zahringer made six bogeys and a double bogey while Wolstenholme made five bogeys and two double bogeys.