Reigning U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Lion Kim, who expects to graduate from the University of Michigan in June, won’t defend his title this summer at the Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon.
The 21-year-old from Lake Mary, Fla., said on Monday that he plans to join a private club following graduation, thus making him ineligible for the APL, which is scheduled for June 27-July 2.
“I have visions of playing professional golf after graduation and I feel like I need to find a place where I can really improve my game,” said Kim, who was driving back to Ann Arbor on Monday after competing in the Masters. “I found a place down in Lake Mary. I’m a little disappointed that I won’t be making the trip out there [to Bandon Dunes], but I’m doing what I need to do. I feel like it’s best for me and my family.”
Last July, the Korean-born Kim defeated David McDaniel, 6 and 5, in the APL final at Bryan Park Golf & Conference Center in Greensboro, N.C. That victory earned him an invitation to the 2011 Masters, where he posted rounds of 76-72 and missed the 36-hole cut by two strokes.
Kim made a strong run at making the cut, but couldn’t get any birdie putts to drop on Augusta National’s second nine in Friday’s second round. After birdieing the eighth hole, Kim made nine straight pars before bogeying No. 18 to finish at four over par. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, the reigning Asian Amateur champion, was the only amateur of the six in the field to play the weekend. Kim’s 148 total, however, was better than two of the other three amateurs who received Masters invitations via USGA competitions. David Chung, the 2010 U.S. Amateur runner-up, tied Kim by shooting 72-76, while U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein shot 72-77, and U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith shot 75-77.
Kim’s spring plans include finishing up his general studies degree and completing his eligibility on the Michigan men’s golf team, which was the NCAA Division I runner-up in 2009. Michigan still has the Big Ten Conference Championship and NCAA regionals remaining on the schedule. If all goes well, Kim will be at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla., in late May for the NCAA Division I Championship.
“Right now I’ve got school in mind and I want to graduate,” said Kim, who has three exams and three papers awaiting him on his return from the Masters.
Kim’s post-college plans include competing in U.S. Open sectional qualifying and possibly the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic in July on a sponsor’s exemption. Should Kim decide to use his APL exemption to avoid U.S. Open local qualifying, he would have to play the Open as an amateur if he qualified.
He indicated that he might also try to Monday qualify for a couple of PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour events this summer as he prepares to enter PGA Tour Qualifying School in the fall.
Nevertheless, Kim said he was proud to be a USGA champion and cherished the opportunities it has brought his way.
“It’s quite an honor to realize you are a USGA champion,” he said. “These last couple of months have been fun. All the attention you get from being the national champion has been great. And I’m proud to call myself a USGA champion.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.