Greensboro, N.C. – Lion Kim, 21, of Ann Arbor, Mich., will face David McDaniel, 25, of Tucson, Ariz., in Saturday’s scheduled 36-hole final at the 2010 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. Kim and McDaniel both won their semifinal matches, 1 up, on Friday at the 7,218-yard, par-71 Champions Course at Bryan Park Golf & Conference Center to advance to the championship final.
In the first semifinal, Kim beat Kevin Phelan, 19, of St. Augustine, Fla., in a thrilling match that included a combined nine birdies and an eagle in the final 12 holes.
“Kevin played awesome on the front,” said Kim, a rising senior at the University of Michigan. “He had three holes, seven, eight, nine, where he made three straight birdies. All I could do was just make nine straight pars on the front nine. But I kept telling myself, ‘anything can happen, anything can happen,’ and my birdie on 10 was big.”
Phelan, who qualified for the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links, held a 2-up lead over Kim with six holes to play. He was the equivalent of 3-under on the day at that moment and his consistent play allowed Kim little room for error, something Kim had anticipated.
“Coming into this week I thought, ‘Expect every opponent to play good,’” said Kim, who was born in Korea but moved to the United States when he was less than a year old. “If they shoot 5- or 6-under on you, then you shoot 7- or 8-under. If they play good then you need to play great. If they’re going to play great golf you need to play phenomenal golf.”
Phenomenal golf is what Kim needed to defeat Phelan and it is exactly what he summoned. He began his comeback by winning the 13th to reduce Phelan’s lead to 1 up. Kim then hit the shot of the match at the 492-yard, par-5 15th hole, a 3-wood from 242 yards to within a foot of the hole for a conceded eagle. That eagle squared the match and the confidence that came from a near albatross gave Kim the edge he needed.
“I had to ask my caddie what was on the left because I knew I had to fade that big time and if I double-crossed it, I knew it would be in the woods over the green,” said Kim. “So I really had to commit to that shot. And to be honest with you it’s probably the shot of the week. That came off perfect, just the way I envisioned it. I knew it was a great golf shot.”
Kim won the 16thwith a par to go 1 up and came to the 435-yard, par-4 17th with a chance to win the match. Both players hit the green and Kim faced a 17-foot putt for birdie that looked familiar, having had a similar putt earlier in the day during his quarterfinal match. Kim learned from his morning miss and sunk the birdie putt this time, forcing Phelan to make his 15-foot birdie to halve the hole and take the match to the 18th.
“I knew Kevin was going to make it,” said Kim. “From what I saw in the first 16 holes, he was just making a lot of putts and I was not surprised at all that he made it. I had no doubt that he would make it. I knew we were going to head to 18 even before he hit the putt.”
Phelan did in fact make the putt, eliciting cheers from the spectators around the green and sending the match to 18, with Kim still holding a 1-up lead.
“When I stepped onto the 18th tee box I still told myself I had to play this hole to make birdie,” said Kim. “If Kevin was anywhere on the green I knew he was going to have a good run at it. As soon as he hit it to 5 feet, I wasn’t surprised at all, again because he’s that good of a player. I knew I had to answer.”
Kim answered in dramatic fashion, hitting a 6-iron from 182 yards to 7 feet. He was first to play on the green and calmly made his testing birdie putt to deny Phelan and claim the match, 1 up.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Kim. ““It was a tough match. A great match. One of the best matches I’ve ever played.”
The second semifinal also featured a comeback by the eventual winner, as McDaniel faced stiff competition from Josh Anderson, 21, of Murrieta, Calif. Anderson held a 3-up lead at the seventh, McDaniel’s largest deficit thus far in the championship.
“I was 3 down but I was playing pretty good early, just not getting anything out of it,” said McDaniel, who won the 2009 Arizona Amateur and the 2010 Arizona Publinks Championship. “I thought if I could just keep playing pretty solid that maybe it would start turning a little bit and it did.”
The momentum shifted at the 175-yard, par-3 seventh, where McDaniel hit a 7-iron to 4 feet and made the birdie putt to cut Anderson’s lead to 2-up.
“When I birded seven, that kind of put me back in it and he bogeyed eight, I parred it, and all of the sudden I was right there again only 1 down,” said McDaniel. “That was probably the turning point right there that kept me alive.”
McDaniel squared the match with a par at the 10th but quickly lost another hole when he bogeyed the 11th. After a birdie at the 13th and par at the 14th, McDaniel gained a 1-up lead that he never relinquished. McDaniel and Anderson then went toe-to-toe the final four holes, each playing them in 1-under-par fashion, with McDaniel holding on to win at the 18th, 1 up.
McDaniel is unlike many of the other competitors competing at this week’s championship. The recent University of Northern Arizona graduate wears tennis shoes when he plays – he says they’re more comfortable – and only plays one round of golf a week. McDaniel, who practices daily at The Practice Tee, a driving range in Tucson, is now one step closer to becoming a USGA champion.
“Obviously I’m real grateful that I’m here, but I don’t want to get caught up just being here,” he said. “I want to play one more good match and see if I can get a win if I play well and things go my way.”
Both finalists will receive exemptions to the 2010 U.S. Amateur Championship, being held August 23-29 at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., which is also hosting the 2015 U.S. Open.
The U.S. Amateur Public Links, established in 1922 for bona fide public-course players, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Story written by Justin Hancher and David Normoyle, USGA Communications. Contact them with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Greensboro, N.C. – Pairing for the scheduled 36-hole final round of match play at the 2010 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at the 7,218-yard, par-71 Champions Course at Bryan Park Golf & Conference Center.
7 a.m. Lion Kim, Ann Arbor, Mich. (143) vs. David McDaniel, Tucson, Ariz. (145)