Auston Kim Can’t Wait for Rookie Season After Experience at The ANNIKA

Meet 2023 Epson Tour Graduate Auston Kim

Auston Kim needed nothing short of something spectacular at the Epson Tour Championship. Entering the week ranked 15th in the Race for the Card after dropping down two spots following the Tuscaloosa Toyota Classic, it was going to take a monumental effort from the Epson Tour sophomore if she wanted even the slightest chance to earn her LPGA Tour card.

And boy did she deliver.

After opening her week in Daytona Beach, Fla., with a ho-hum 71, Kim found an extra gear, blitzing the Jones Course at LPGA International over the next three rounds. She posted an 8-under 64 in round two and then backed that up with a pair of 65s over the weekend, a performance that helped her capture her first Epson Tour victory and move to third in the Race for the Card, securing LPGA Tour status for the 2024 season.

It was a dream come true for Kim, who had only turned professional in May of 2022 and who had finally broken through after recording nine top-10 finishes throughout the season. And the moment was made even more special as Kim had her mom, Piljo, on the bag, walking alongside her daughter every step of the way en route to victory.

“The win is something else, but I'm really ecstatic about all the hard work that I've put in, mentally, physically, all the conditioning, all the upkeep, all the weeks that I've just been grinding out here and working my hardest. It's really a testament to what we've been doing all summer,” Kim said after the victory. “We talked all year about if we do the right things, if I create good habits, it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.

Auston Kim of the United States holds the trophy with her father, Christopher Kim (L), and her mother, Piljo Kim (R) after the final round of The Epson Tour Championship at LPGA International on October 8, 2023 in Daytona Beach, Florida.
“I knew I needed a big week this week, and just having (my mom) by my side and encouraging me and keeping me patient and just knowing that I could learn from last week's disappointment and turn it into something positive this week, she really helped with that. I can say that she was expecting me to win this year, and she was right.”

While she won’t officially be a rookie until next season, Kim has already had the opportunity to tee it up on the LPGA Tour for the first time since she earned membership. The 23-year-old teed it up in a Monday qualifier for The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican, carding a 66 to advance and earn a spot in the field at Pelican Golf Club. It was her fourth career start on the LPGA Tour as Kim had played in the U.S. Women’s Open in 2019, 2020 and 2022, and while she ultimately missed the cut after recording rounds of 69 and 74, the experience was invaluable for soon-to-be rookie Kim.

“It's awesome to get my feet wet right now rather than being kind of caught off guard later in January. But I just really wanted to get this experience. I'm really proud of myself for earning my way into (The ANNIKA),” said Kim. “I think playing an entire year and experiencing the tough competition on the Epson Tour has been instrumental for my development. I've learned a lot, I've experienced a lot and I know that it's going to help me in the long run.”

But that’s Auston the golfer.

Off the golf course, Kim radiates intelligence, carrying herself with a quiet confidence that makes her seem effortlessly cool, all while remaining incredibly humble, especially when it comes to her golf achievements. She played collegiate golf at Vanderbilt University, getting a bachelor’s degree in political science, and would have been a lawyer if professional golf hadn’t worked out this well so quickly.

Kim is also a devoted daughter and a supportive sister. As her mother looped for her throughout the 2023 season, Kim’s dad and coach, Chris, looked on from the sidelines, watching every single shot his daughter hit with the eye of both a fervent fan and constructive coach, ready to discuss each decision made after the round to help Kim improve. While it’s somewhat unique for Chris and Piljo to both be as involved as they are in Kim’s professional golf career, what’s even more interesting is they’ve gotten to do it twice.

Auston has an older sister named August, who joined the Epson Tour in 2017. She played until 2022, recording 10 top-10 finishes and making $111,552 in career earnings, but ultimately chose to step away from professional golf in 2022 to pursue a career in medicine. Even though she doesn’t play anymore, August is just as invested in her sister’s golf career as her parents are, and the relationship she has had with her older sister that has also been critical to Kim’s success throughout the years.

“I always had someone to look up to, someone who's always doing the right thing, and if (August) made a mistake, I could watch and learn from that. So I was definitely very fortunate to have that. She's always been a great role model for me, and I'm really grateful to be her younger sister,” said Auston. “She's my best friend. She's always supported me ever since she started school and retired from golf. She's given me so much advice.
Auston Kim of the United States holds the trophy after winning the final round of The Epson Tour Championship at LPGA International on October 8, 2023 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

“I really couldn't have done this without her. She's kept me calm. I've learned a lot from her. We grew up playing together, and I've always wanted to beat her, and I couldn't have gotten this without her.”

As she looks ahead to her rookie season, Kim – like the rest of the 2023 Epson Tour graduates – can’t wait to get her LPGA Tour career started. The Epson Tour Championship victory did a lot for the 23-year-old’s confidence in her game, reinvigorating her belief in her ability to come up clutch in the biggest of moments. But it also has motivated her to dig in during the off-season, working as hard as possible to make sure she’s as sharp and as ready as ever to hang with the world’s top talent on the LPGA Tour.

“The only thing that I can think of is that the real work starts now,” said Kim after her victory at the Epson Tour Championship. “I'm really proud of this win, and this win was a really big step in the right direction. It's what I've been working for all year, and now my goals have changed. I don't want to set any high expectations for myself, but I know what my goals are. I know that I'm really excited for next year, and I cannot wait to compete against the best.”

Auston Kim of the United States plays her shot from the fourth tee during the second round of The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican at Pelican Golf Club on November 10, 2023 in Belleair, Florida.

And while The ANNIKA didn’t exactly turn out like she expected it to, Kim got a taste of what life on the biggest stage in women’s golf will be like next season, making her that much more excited as she anticipates the start of her journey as a 2024 LPGA Tour rookie.

“I think it's a lot more real now with me playing my first LPGA event and seeing the schedule and planning out where I'm gonna go next year and just preparing in general and I'm really excited,” Kim said. “I'm proud of all the hard work that me and my team put in, me and my