BY MATT JOHNSON
Daily Sports Writer
Published September 24, 2007
A practice round before a tournament is essential in golf. It allows players to get used to the course and create a plan of attack, noting the difficult holes and how they want to play them.
But before his first collegiate tournament, freshman Lion Kim had to forgo his practice round because of academic commitments.
Despite playing on a course he had never seen before, Kim still managed to stay at par for 16 holes. He ended up bogeying the final two holes, but still shot a 74, good enough for 10th place at the Purdue Midwest Shootout.
"I really have confidence in my game," Kim said. "A practice round is really important, because you need to see the golf course and plan out your strategy. But I've played enough golf where stuff like that doesn't bother me that much."
It's not surprising that Kim put school over golf. Michigan's reputation as an elite academic institution is why he came to Ann Arbor in the first place.
"I have different goals other than playing golf all day and going pro," Kim said. "My goal was to get an education and get a degree. I have a lot of time to play golf after college."
Education is highly valued in Kim's family. He has a brother attending law school at Georgetown - and his parents made sure Kim always put school before golf.
Many observers were surprised he chose Michigan instead of a traditionally powerful golf program since he was so highly touted out of high school. Golfweek ranked him second in the country among junior golfers last year, and he played in the prestigious US Amateur before entering college. Kim also attended high school in Florida, allowing him to practice outdoors all year round.
Michigan coach Andrew Sapp was thrilled with Kim's choice, which also helped him land Alexander Sitompul, the 18th-ranked junior golfer in the country last year.
"He knew a player of Lion Kim's caliber was coming here," Sapp said. "That probably helped him make his decision to come here as well."
While recruiting Kim, Sapp said it took him one shot to figure out that Kim was an elite player. At the Rolex Tournament of Champions in Denver, Kim fired a shot over water on a par three to within four feet of the pin. Sapp feels that kind of accuracy is the trademark of Kim's game.
Sapp compared Kim to Mark Wilson, whom Sapp coached at North Carolina. Wilson won an ACC championship and went on to win the Honda Classic on the PGA Tour this year. Sapp said both are strategists on the golf course, meaning they make up for a lack of power with accurate shots and good putting.
Kim agreed with that assessment.
"In collegiate golf, the kids are much bigger and stronger," Kim said. "I can't hit it as far as they do, but I can still compete and play well at this level."
After his 10th place finish at Purdue, Kim tied for 57th at the Inverness Intercollegiate, so he knows he still has some work to do. But for such a talented player, more top-10 finishes are definitely possible later in the year.
"Hopefully he'll remain in our starting line-up and really compete for the lowest stroke average on the team," Sapp said.