U.S. AMATEUR
Ghim Puts Blinders On at Oakland Hills August 18, 2016 | Bloomfield Township, Mich. By Stuart Hall

Doug Ghim knows what it takes to succeed in USGA championships, having reached a final and semifinal in the last three years. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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Doug Ghim knows. He knows the satisfaction of nearly getting through the grueling weeklong gauntlet of a USGA match-play championship. He unfortunately also knows the gut-gripping disappointment of watching an opponent lift the championship trophy. 

After deep runs in the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2013 and the final U.S. Amateur Public Links in 2014, Ghim is hopeful of a third such journey in this week’s U.S. Amateur Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club.

Advancing to the 64-player match play portion as the No. 19 seed, Ghim, 20, of Arlington Heights, Ill., defeated 48-year-old Todd White, 2 and 1, in Wednesday’s Round of 64.

“They always say the first match is the most difficult one,” said Ghim, acknowledging that to be the case against White, a 2013 USA Walker Cup Team member and a 2015 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball co-champion.

In Thursday’s Round of 32, Ghim is facing 14th-seeded Collin Morikawa, of La Cañada, Calif. Beyond that, Ghim does not want to speculate.

"I would love to win, but I feel the key to being successful this week is not to think about it,” Ghim said. "You can almost want it too much and I felt like that happened to me at the Pub Links when I was winning, so I will just try to keep my head down and play good golf."

Ghim’s closest opportunity to win a USGA championship came two years ago at Sand Creek Station in Newton, Kan. Aside from a 23-hole win against 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Jordan Niebrugge, Ghim advanced easily to the semifinals.

Ghim trailed early in his semifinal match against Michael Gellerman, but rallied for a 1-up win.

“I struggled early in the semifinal and came back to win that one on the 18th hole,” he recalled. “It gave me a feeling that it might be my day the next day.”

Against Byron Meth in the 36-hole championship match, Ghim trailed as much as 3 down in the morning session and 2 down in the afternoon. He came back both times and took a 1-up lead to the 36th tee. Ghim, though, lost the hole and then lost the match on the 37th hole.

A year earlier, Ghim reached the U.S. Junior Amateur semifinals at Martis Camp Club in Truckee, Calif. Ghim lost, 6 and 4, to his future University of Texas teammate, Scottie Scheffler, who a day later won the title. 

This week, in his second U.S. Amateur appearance – he lost in the 2014 Round of 64 – Ghim is better prepared mentally.

“I gained a ton of things from those experiences,” he said. “The experience of making it through a difficult week, for one. I also learned to be patient, especially in those last three 18-hole rounds [at the U.S. Amateur Public Links].

“Given another opportunity, whether it’s this week or next year or whenever, I’m confident I’ll be able to get it done.”

Ghim, a rising junior for the Longhorns, believes his game is on a positive path.

A week after tying for 27th at the Sunnehanna Amateur, Ghim, No. 45 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, represented the United States at the Arnold Palmer Cup in England. Most recently, he finished third in the Trans-Mississippi Amateur and reached the Western Amateur quarterfinals, losing to eventual champion Dylan Meyer.

All of that is in the past, though, as are the near-misses in years past and even Wednesday’s Round of 64 victory. While Ghim admits his game has not peaked like it did during his Public Links run, he is pleased with his overall state of mind.

“There are always more things you can learn, but I feel like I’m better prepared than before,” he said. “I feel like I have been more consistent and hopefully this will be my week.”

Regardless of how far Ghim advances, one constant opponent in each match will be the treacherous South Course, known as “The Monster.” At 5-foot-9, Ghim needs to summon as much distance as possible and then rely on his short game.

“It’s a long golf course for me,” he said of a course that played more than 7,100 yards during stroke play and the Round of 64. “[Wednesday] I was lucky I played an opponent [in White] who doesn’t hit it super long, but still hits it a respectable distance.

“If I do run into someone who hits it very far, I feel like I will have to play a very, very solid match to keep up. It’s a big advantage to be able to hit shorter irons into these greens and carry some of the cross bunkers that I might not be able to.”

Ghim, though, will concern himself with those matters as they present themselves. Just like he knows not to think about Sunday's 36-hole final.

What matters most is the immediate present.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.

 

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