Ghim in Lockstep With His Dad En Route to Quarterfinals
August 17, 2017 | PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIF.
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
Doug Ghim remembers the time when his father, Jeff, was disappointed with Doug’s decision to try to reach a par-5 green in two several years ago when he was leading an Illinois junior tournament.
“After I hit into the water, I see my dad in the woods and he’s kicking a tree,” said Ghim, 21, of Arlington Heights, Ill., with a laugh. “I still won the tournament, and afterward, I saw that he was limping a bit. I said, what’s wrong, Dad, did you sprain your ankle? He said, ‘I must have stepped on something.’”
The trip that Ghim and his father have taken to Friday’s quarterfinals of the 117th U.S. Amateur Championship at The Riviera Country Club has not been without its bumps and disappointments, but so far, there hasn’t been any lingering pain. On Thursday it included victories over Sahith Theegala (19 holes) and Joey Vrzich (3 and 2). The second win was punctuated by a 12-foot birdie on the par-3 16th hole, Ghim’s 33rd of the day, and an embrace with his father, who doubles as Doug’s swing coach and caddie.
“He knows me better than anyone and that’s definitely an advantage,” said Ghim. “There’s no awkwardness or anything like that. Is there a disadvantage? Well, it’s family, and we both want it so bad. He arguably wants it more than I do. We ride this roller coaster together and when it gets going in the wrong direction, sometimes it’s tough. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Ghim has already advanced farther than in any of his three previous U.S. Amateurs, but it is not as close as he has come to winning a USGA championship. In 2013, he reached the semifinals of the U.S. Junior Amateur before losing to eventual champion Scottie Scheffler. In 2014, he stood on the tee of the 36th hole of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship with a 1-up lead, but hit his tee shot out of bounds and lost the match to Byron Meth on the 37th hole.
“I went back to play Sand Creek Station [site of that APL championship, in Newton, Kan.] just for fun when I played the Trans-Miss Amateur in July,” said Ghim. “It was kind of wild… they still had the 36-hole scores [displayed] in the clubhouse. I played really well that day – I think I shot 65 – so it was some kind of closure for me.”
Ghim considers that 2014 disappointment part of the journey to Friday’s quarterfinal match at 1:30 PDT against Connor Syme, of Scotland.
“I’ve gotten a lot better since then, and I draw off it,” said Ghim, a first-team All-America player at Texas last year. “I’ve played a lot of matches against a lot of good players, and knowing that I can handle it is nice to know. I think the culmination of all of that is helping me a lot this week.”
Ghim, who is No. 7 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, ousted a pair of home-state players on Thursday. He trailed Theegala (of Chino Hills) through 10 holes on Thursday morning before rallying to win with a par on the first playoff hole. He took the lead on Vrzich (of El Cajon) on the sixth hole and never looked back.
“I knew Sahith would be a big hurdle – he’s good, he’s local and he wasn’t making any mistakes,” said Ghim. “Winning that match gave me a bit of a boost. I made a couple of good putts to start in the afternoon, and when you’re putting well, it kinda helps the ball-striking. I was really able to get into a rhythm.”
Ghim may be savoring this U.S. Amateur run even more than one might think.
“My dad has been on my bag for every amateur tournament,” said Ghim. “And this is probably my last one, other than college. It’s fun to have him on the ride, and hopefully it’s a special one.”
Ghim noted the growth, not only in his game, but in the tutoring provided by his father, a longtime teaching professional.
“We’ve grown together, gone through every level of golf together,” he said. “My dad hadn’t had a player like me before, in terms of playing U.S. Amateurs and stuff. Just as I’ve gotten better at golf, my dad’s gotten loads better at coaching, at being a caddie.
“We giggle about those things at times, like before when I would l miss a fairway he would be freaking out. Now he says, ‘I’ve seen you miss the fairway a million times, you’re going to be just fine.’”
As if he needed more incentive, Ghim’s father turns 58 on Monday, the day after the championship ends.
“I’m thinking of a birthday present; it’s kinda tall, got a lot of names on it,” said Ghim with a chuckle. “From the first time I swung a golf club to that putt right there, he’s been there every step of the way.”
Granted, some of those steps have been tougher than others.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.