USC-bound Kyung Kim captures U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links title

Kyung Kim is the 2012 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Champion. (USGA/Hunter Martin)

Neshanic Station, N.J. –  Kyung Kim, 18, of Chandler, Ariz., defeated Ashlan Ramsey, 16, of Milledgeville, Ga., 4 and 2, to win the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at the 6,221-yard, par-72 Neshanic Valley Golf Course.

“I just can’t believe it,” said Kim. “It was a long week, but to be finally done and to win, it’s pretty amazing.”

On a bright day with 20 mph winds whipping across the course, the players combined for 18 birdies in the match.  Kim had 10 birdies of her own.

“I didn’t know I had 10 birdies,” said Kim. “That’s so much.”

Ramsey had eight birdies, but said she never got any momentum going.

“Kyung obviously played better than me, but I think the difference was she made more putts than I did,” Ramsey said.

Kim’s victory is the first time that a non-college player has claimed the title since 2007. She begins her freshman year at the University of Southern California in the fall.

Kim and Ramsey got off to a slow start, halving the first hole with bogeys. Ramsey also bogeyed the second to lose the hole. Ramsey was delayed checking out of her hotel this morning and arrived at the course later than usual.

“I was a little bit rushed coming to the course and just didn’t really have that great of a warm-up,” Ramsey said.  “It took me three holes to find my game, settle in and not be nervous.”

Today was the first match-play final for both. They played some loose golf on the early holes and Kim took a 1-up lead. Halfway through the outward nine they settled down and both birdied the fourth hole. Ramsey reeled off birdies on the sixth and seventh to take the lead for the only time in the match, 1 up.

At the par-5 ninth, Kim caught fire. She made four straight birdies, from the ninth through the 12th, and jumped into a 2-up lead. During that run, Kim made more than 100 feet of putts, sinking a 25-footer at the ninth and draining a 40-foot putt at the 10th. On the 11th, she birdied from 30 feet. Her last of the four straight birdies was a 5-footer.

“I thought, ‘Dang, I guess my putts can go in,’” Kim said. “I had been lipping out a lot.”

Both players made birdies on the par-5 14th.

Kim’s caddie, her father Douglas Kim, worked to keep her calm during the final match.

“He just told me to breathe, slow down my tempo and hit the ball like I practiced,” Kim said.

Ramsey got one back on 15th with a par and Kim was 1 up.

Before the match, Ramsey and Kim had both declared a strategy of “fairways and greens.” Their encounter took on a more dramatic shape.  With the usual match-play concessions, Kim was 4-under-par and Ramsey 3-under par after a smattering of bogeys in the morning 18.

Kim began the afternoon round firing her drives down the middle of the fairways and living up to her nickname of “Radar.”

As she had in the morning round, Ramsey started shakily and made two quick bogeys. Kim was 2 up at the 22nd hole when Ramsey regained her rhythm and matched Kim’s birdie-4.

The greens firmed up in the wind and the players had to allow for the bounces on their approach shots. On the 156-yard, par-3 24th, Ramsey hit a fine 6-iron shot to within 12 feet of the hole, made a breaking downhill putt for another birdie and edged closer. Kim was now 1 up.

Kim birdied the par-5 27th hole to regain a 2-up lead. Ramsey answered with a 14-foot birdie putt at the 28th and cut the margin to one.

Starting at the par-5 32nd hole, Kim reeled off two straight birdies to Ramsey’s pars and led, 3 up, with three holes to play.

Dormie-3, Ramsey was in a desperate situation on the par-5 34th hole. She missed the green with her approach shot while Kim was in the fringe in three. Ramsey then ran her chip some 12 feet past the hole and could only manage a bogey. Kim lagged to within a foot of the hole and Ramsey conceded the putt, the hole and the match. It ended, 4 and 2.

In 34 holes, Kim and Ramsey combined for 18 birdies. In recent memory, the most birdies in a 36-hole USGA women’s final came in the 2001 U.S. Women’s Amateur. Meredith Duncan, of Shreveport, La., and Nicole Perrot, of Chile, combined for 20 birdies. Duncan won with one of them on the 37th hole. There were 16 birdies in the final of the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur.

With match-play concessions Kim’s scorecard for the day showed 7-under-par. Ramsey was 3-under-par.

Ramsey will play in a junior tournament next week. Kim will play in the U.S. Women’s Open. Kim will skip the U.S. Women’s Amateur in favor of a trip to Korea, the homeland of her parents.

“I haven’t been to Korea for like eight years,” said Kim.

This time, she’ll return as a United States champion.

– Courtesy Rhonda Glenn, USGA manager of communications.

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