Lowest round in major championship history? Check. First major championship win at the ripe old age of 19 years old? Check. Hyo Joo Kim got both of those in one week a year ago at the Evian Championship, where she stormed onto the scene with a 10-under-par 61 to open.
For Kim, the 19-year-old LPGA rookie currently ranked fifth in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, the realization of what she had done a year ago at the Evian Championship didn’t come when Karrie Webb’s par putt to force a playoff went racing past. Nor did it come when her friends on Tour flooded the green to douse her in water to celebrate her first major championship victory. And it didn’t come as she stood on the 18th green kissing her championship trophy, holding the winner’s check.
Instead, it came on the Monday after the tournament when she landed in her native Korea and saw the mob waiting for her.
“Even though I got the check, I didn’t feel like a winner,” Kim said through a translator. “But after I arrived [in Korea], too much like cameras and reporters. Then I realized I’m the winner at that time.”
That week’s had a lasting effect on her career going forward. Not only is she permanently embedded in golf’s history books with that first-round 10-under-par 61 that was four better than anyone else in the field on that day, but she also used that week to propel her into LPGA membership this year – and subsequently a win in March at the 2015 Founders Cup Presented by JTBC. One thing she didn’t get from that win – or the subsequent $487,500 check – was a new ride.
“I got the money, but I didn’t buy anything for me,” Kim said. “I didn’t even have a driver’s license, so I couldn’t buy a car, so I didn’t get anything from that money.”
She did, however, get a bit lucky, she says, on the first day when she could seemingly do no wrong in a round 10-under-par 61 that broke the major championship record and came with only 23 putts. That 61 was so good that only four other players were even within six shots of her lead after the first round, and the next closest was Webb, who was four back. To put it into perspective, the lowest round in a men’s major is 63.
“I think it was really good luck,” Kim said.