By Kevin Raftery, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 31, 2011
It’s not often a player gets to beat his coach.
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But when Michigan senior Lion Kim qualified for the Masters by winning the US Amatuer Public Links Tournament in July, he did just that — kind of.
Kim was permitted to play in the Public Links Tournament since he doesn’t belong to a private golf club — a requirement for anyone who competes in the tournament.
Since Michigan coach Andrew Sapp, who played at North Carolina, belongs to a private club, he has tried for years to qualify for the Masters by winning the US Amateur — a tournament similar to the Public Links and one in which the winner gets an invitation to the Masters.
“I don’t anticipate that I will ever get to play in The Masters,” Sapp said. “But everybody’s got a dream.”
This year, Sapp failed to get past the local qualifier to play in the national tournament. Kim also failed to qualify for the US Amateur, but he had the luxury of playing in the Public Links Tournament as well.
And it’d be safe to say Kim took advantage of that luxury. But both Kim and Sapp insist there was no internal competition that went on between the two as they attempted to qualify for the world’s most prestigious golf tournament.
In fact, every player on the Michigan team played in a local qualifier for the US Amateur this past summer.
“I’m not expected to (win the Amateur),” Sapp said. “He has higher expectations than I do. I spend more time walking around the golf course watching people play than I do swinging it and hitting the ball.”
And though Kim now has the chance to live out his coach’s and nearly every golfer’s dream, he still has plenty of respect for Sapp’s game.
“He’s a great player, to tell you the truth,” Kim said. “He’s got a lot of game, but he just doesn’t practice as much as we do. It’s not like he should be ashamed for not qualifying (for the Masters). I wouldn’t be ashamed if I didn’t qualify either — it’s just I got real fortunate to win one of the biggest tournaments over the summer.”
IN GOOD COMPANY: Kim will have plenty of support in Augusta. In fact, his good luck charms will be with him the whole time he’s there.
“My parents are my lucky charms,” Kim said. “It’s going to give me confidence and definitely make me feel comfortable knowing they’re out there.”
Kim will have ample time to spend with his parents, Yong and Hyun Kim, as the Kim family will be driving down to Augusta together.
Kim’s brother will also be in attendance, as will former teammates, high school friends, and coaches — including Sapp, who will be there for the entire week.
A REAL LIFE PICTURE: Kim has a picture in his room of him and PGA golfer KJ Choi, when Kim met Choi as a spectator at the 2002 Bay Hill Invitational.
“He probably doesn’t remember that,” Kim joked.
But on Monday, Kim hopes to be practicing with Choi.
Kim said his instructor, Brian Mogg, contacted Choi’s agent, who said Choi would enjoy practicing with Kim in Augusta.
“(Choi’s agent) told KJ about doing a practice round with me, and he was very happy about it,” Kim said. “He said, ‘For sure, we’ll do it.’”
COACH’S DREAM? Sapp said he's never been to the Masters because he wanted to have a good reason to go.
As if Kim wasn’t a good enough reason, one of Sapp’s former players from his coaching days at North Carolina will be there, too.
“I’ve got another former player (at the Masters this year),” Sapp said. “Mark Wilson, who’s won twice on tour this year and is actually leading the money list currently, will be there.”
It will be Wilson’s first Masters trip as well.