Symetra Tour rookie Kim Kaufman (@KimKaufmanGolf) played like a seasoned veteran during the final round of the Island Resort Championship and outlasted a one-playoff with Mitsuki Katahira to secure her first professional victory.
Playing in only her third event on the Symetra Tour, Kaufman fired the round of the day on Sunday at Sweetgrass Golf Club that included five birdies and one bogey.
Kaufman wasted little time getting into the red numbers during the final round with a birdie at the opening hole. The recent Texas Tech University graduate then bogeyed the par-4 fifth before recording another birdie at the par-4 eighth.
“I started off with a birdie on the first hole which I thought was great,” said Kaufman. “Then I hit one in the water and the rest of the front-nine I made a bunch of pars but I knew girls were coming backwards. I knew I just had to hang in there.”
As Kaufman made her way to the back-nine the two-time All-American was able to prevail amidst windy conditions with birdies at the par-4 14th and back-to-back birdies at Nos. 17 and 18.
“I made a birdie on the short par-4 14th then made two 20-footers on 17 and 18 right at the end,” said Kaufman. “I stayed patient and I think it paid off.”
Playing in the final group of the day, second year Symetra Tour member Mitsuki Katahira never gave-up in Sunday’s round. After carding three birdies in her opening nine, Katahira began to stage a comeback after holing out for eagle at the par-4 10th.
“I looked at the scoreboard and knew I still had a chance, I was 2-strokes behind,” said Katahira. “I was like okay, just try to make birdie then it went in on the second shot. I just tried to let it motivate me and keep going.”
With both players finishing the tournament at 3-under-par, the duo headed back to the par-5 18th for the first playoff hole.
The advantage immediately swung in Kaufman’s favor after Katahira hit her third shot in a fairway bunker. With Kaufman safely on the green in regulation, Katahira’s nerves began racing as she hit her third shot over the green.
“The third shot it went in the bunker,” said Katahira. “I was really afraid to chunk it so I kind of hit it thin and it kind of took off. It wasn’t an easy shot and I was a little disappointed in my chip shot but I need to learn how to calm myself.”
Faced with a difficult chip, Katahira’s hit it over the green forcing her to chip from the fringe for the second time. The Tokyo, Japan native calmly knocked-in her 15 foot bogey putt but it wasn’t enough for the victory as Kaufman calmly two-putted for par to become the eighth first-time winner on tour this year.
“She kind of made it easy for me,” said Kaufman. “I was just thinking I need to two-putt but at the same time it kind of made it a difficult task so just tried to stay calm and just keep doing what I was doing.”
Kim’s previous best finish on the Symetra Tour came at the Decatur-Forsyth Classic where she was T10. According to the Clark, S.D., her first victory on the Road to the LPGA still hasn’t yet sunk in.
“It feels good but I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” said Kaufman. “It feels great, I couldn’t have asked for a better start.”