Stephanie Kim Wins Island Resort Championship
HARRIS, Mich., June 26, 2011 - Teenager Stephanie Kim earned her first professional victory in wire-to-wire fashion today at the $100,000 Island Resort Championship presented by Delta County Chamber of Commerce.
The 2011 LPGA and LPGA Futures Tour rookie carded rounds of 67-72-70 to win by two shots at 7-under 209 at Sweetgrass Golf Club in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Kim edged runner-up Jane Rah (70) of Torrance, Calif., who finished at 5-under 211, and Hanna Kang (72) of Seoul, South Korea, who finished third at 4-under 212.
"It wasn't as hard leading the pack as it was hitting the fairway today," said Kim, 19, of Bayside, N.Y., who hit only nine fairways in regulation in today's final round. "I was scraping it around, but making a lot of putts. When my swing fell apart, I guess I just dug deep."
Fortunately for the former Wake Forest University collegian, her putter responded when she needed it most. Kim rolled in a 15-foot birdie on the third hole, a 90-foot birdie monster on No. 7 and a five-foot birdie on the ninth hole.
But she gave back two shots when her drive found a water hazard on the ninth hole and she hooked her tee shot left into the fescue on No. 10. On the par-5 11th hole, Kang chipped in for eagle to draw within two strokes of Kim.
"After Hanna made the eagle there, I said, ‘I guess I need to make birdie,' and I did [from eight feet]," said Kim, who played as an amateur on the LPGA Futures Tour in 2009 and 2010.
Kim rolled in an eight-footer for birdie on No. 11, gave it back with a bogey on No. 12 when she flew the green, and then rolled in a 15-foot birdie on the 13th hole.
But Kim was wobbling and Kang, Rah and rookie Lizette Salas of Azusa, Calif., were applying pressure with five holes to play. Rah missed her five-foot birdie chance on the 18th hole. And Kang's approach to the 18th green landed in the back fringe. She missed her 10-foot putt for par.
Salas (73) took double-bogey on No. 17 to drop into a tie for fourth at 3-under 213 with Kathleen Ekey (67) of Sharon Township, Ohio.
Even with a two-stroke lead heading into 18, Kim had a tricky fairway bunker shot into the last green. Her blast out of the sand hit the firm green and rolled 65 feet past the hole, leaving Kim a tester to two-putt for the win.
"Did you see my bunker shot?" quipped Kim. "If it hadn't stopped when it did, it would have rolled on to Canada. I just knew I didn't want to three-putt to win."
Kim eyed the long putt on a double green built in the shape of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and rolled it to eight feet, making her putt for par and the win.
"I was thinking, ‘Be fearless, Stephanie,' and that this putt was shorter than the one I had on the seventh green today," said Kim, who needed only 26 putts in the final round. "You can't win looking in your rear-view mirror."
Today's runner-up finish was a disappointment for Rah, who has posted four top-10 finishes in four of her last five tournaments. The Californian was still stewing over a missed birdie chance from eight feet on the 17th hole to move within one shot of Kim. And the missed five-foot birdie effort on the last hole added insult to injury.
"I knew that a birdie on the 17th would have been big and missing that putt really stung," said Rah. "I still wanted to make a birdie on the final hole to see what would happen, but these greens have a lot of subtle breaks. I missed a lot of birdie opportunities today."
In spite of four inches of rain earlier in the week, 25 mph winds in Friday's first round, and firm and fast greens in today's final round, Kim was able to hang on to her lead in this week's inaugural event. She said the win felt like "a weight was lifted" from her shoulders, adding that it also helps validate her decision to leave college golf after only a year.
"It's not about silencing the critics," said Kim, with the trophy, a cardbook check for $15,400, and a handmade Native-American blanket in her arms after the awards ceremony. "It's about me and my future. If you don't step on the first tee and think you can win, you shouldn't play. I'm glad I delivered."
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