LORTON, Va. – Michael
Kim introduced himself to a national audience this June at Merion. Now, he’s
one win away from putting his name on a USGA trophy.
Kim, the low amateur at
the 2013 U.S. Open, and Jordan Niebrugge each won two matches Friday to advance
to Saturday's 36-hole final of the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship
being conducted at the 7,022-yard, par-70 Laurel Hill Golf Club.
The APL is one of 13
individual national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf
Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Kim, 20, of Del Mar,
Calif., has received just about every collegiate honor possible in the past
year while playing for the University of California-Berkeley. He won four
events in his sophomore season (2012-13); was named Pac-12 Conference Golfer of
the Year and first-team All-American; and won the Jack Nicklaus Award and the
Fred Haskins Award for national player of the year. He also represented the
United States on the 2013 Palmer Cup Team and, earlier this week, was named to
the 2013 USA Walker Cup Team.
In the semifinals, Kim
played long-time friend and fellow San Diegan, Eric Sugimoto, 19. The players
halved the first five holes before Sugimoto struck first with a long birdie
putt at the sixth. Kim quickly responded with wins on the next three holes. He
drove it in the front greenside bunker on No. 7 and made the up-and-down for
birdie. On Nos. 8 and 9, Kim took advantage of bogeys by Sugimoto to take a
2-up lead at the turn. A steady diet of fairways, greens and two-putts kept Kim
ahead the rest of the way.
“I didn’t make any
bogeys in the afternoon round,” said Kim, who did not have a single 5 on his
scorecard. “If you do that, you’re going to be tough to beat.”
With the chance to earn
a USGA title just one win away, Kim let himself consider the possibility.
“It would mean a lot,”
said Kim, who defeated Robby Shelton IV, 17, of Wilmer, Ala., 1 up, in the
quarterfinals. “I look around at the banners that are up [around the course] of
previous winners – Trevor Immelman, Brandt Snedeker, Tim Clark. A lot of guys
who have won this [championship] have gone on to have great careers in golf. To
add my name to that list would be pretty special.”
His opponent in the
championship match, Jordan Niebrugge, 19, of Mequon, Wis., continued his own impressive
march through the APL field with a 4-and-3 victory over James Erkenbeck, 23, of
For the first time in
the championship, Niebrugge trailed in a match when Erkenbeck won the second
hole with a birdie. The deficit was short-lived, however, as Niebrugge promptly
won the third hole with a par and the 166-yard fourth with a birdie. Erkenbeck squared
the match with a birdie at the seventh, but Niebrugge pulled ahead for good
with back-to-back birdies on the ninth and 10th.
“Today was tough,” said
Niebrugge, who defeated Zecheng Dou, 16, of The People’s Republic of China, 1
up, in the quarterfinals. “Thirty-six [holes] today [meant] your legs were
getting tired, so you had some errant shots, but I just reminded myself about
posture and started hitting it a little better. Overall, I played great.”
The key to Niebrugge’s
success this week has been his putting, which had been an area of concern
coming into Laurel Hill.
“It’s funny because at
the U.S. Amateur qualifier I had 35 or 40 putts both rounds – just not
acceptable,” said Niebrugge. “My speed is much better here and I’ve been making
a lot of 15- and 20-footers. When you’re doing that and hitting the ball well,
you’re going to score pretty well.”
Niebrugge credits his
coaches at Oklahoma State University for instilling confidence in him during
his freshman season. His goal was to finish in the top-five of every tournament
he played in – and Niebrugge has responded with better focus and renewed
determination. Though he knows playing against the No. 2-ranked amateur in the world
is a daunting task, Niebrugge is excited for the challenge.
“I think I’m playing
well enough to stay with anybody right now,” he said. “I’ve been under par
every match. If I keep doing that, I’ll keep the match close. That’s the main
goal: Keep it close and you never know what can happen.”
With the players going
36 holes for the second day in a row, the extreme weather conditions were a
factor once again. Temperatures in Fairfax County reached 98 degrees, with the
Heat Index topping out at 108.
“We usually complain
whenever the wind picks up because the course plays harder,” said Kim. “But the
last few days we were so happy when it was blowing so we could stay a little
“It was tough to stay
cool out there,” said Niebrugge. “I drank about 30 waters today.”
Both players will
battle hot and humid conditions again tomorrow in the 36-hole championship
match, which is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. EDT.
As finalists, both Kim
and Niebrugge have earned exemptions into next month’s U.S. Amateur at The
Country Club in Brookline, Mass. They are also exempt from local qualifying for
next year’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort. The champion, if he remains an
amateur, will receive an exemption into next year’s APL, a gold medal, custody
of the James D. Standish Trophy for the year and will likely receive an invitation to the 2014 Masters. The runner-up receives an
exemption into next year’s APL and a silver medal.
Michael Trostel is
the curator/historian at the USGA Museum. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lorton, Va. –
Results from Friday afternoon’s semifinal matches at the 2013 U.S. Amateur
Public Links Championship being held at 7,022-yard, par-70 Laurel Hill
Jordan Niebrugge, Mequon, Wis. (138) def. James Erkenbeck, San Diego,
Calif. (137), 3 and 2
Michael Kim, Del Mar, Calif. (137) def. Eric Sugimoto, San Diego, Calif.
(135), 4 and 3
Lorton, Va. – The
starting time for Saturday’s 36-hole final match at the 2013 U.S. Amateur
Public Links Championship being held at 7,022-yard, par-70 Laurel Hill Golf
7:00 a.m. EDT - Jordan Niebrugge, Mequon, Wis. (138) vs. Michael Kim, Del
Mar, Calif. (137)