Korean-born Sihwan Kim, 15, of Fullerton, Calif., took the lead for good with a winning par on the sixth hole and defeated 14-year-old David Chung of Fayetteville, N.C., 1-up, in the U.S. Junior Amateur final match Saturday at The Olympic Club, becoming the second youngest to win the championship title.
Kim, who moved from Seoul to the U.S. in 2000, is 22 days older than Tiger Woods was when he won the 1991 Junior Amateur at 15 years and seven months. Woods also won the 1992 and 1993 Junior titles. Chung, at 14 years and six months, would have become the youngest Junior Amateur champion.
Four 15-year-olds have now captured the U.S. Junior Amateur and all of them have resided in California: Kim, Woods, Mike Brannan and Henry Liaw.
Kim, whose first name is loosely translated "bright start," surprised himself with his success.
"I can't believe I won this tournament," said Kim, after making a come-back five-footer for par on the last hole to close out his match.
Chung won the first hole of the match with a birdie before Kim squared the match with a winning par at the second. Kim won again with a par at the sixth and he was ahead to stay.
Kim was 2-up after winning the ninth hole. The two players traded wins at the tenth and 12th holes, with Kim regaining a 2-up margin by holing his 22-foot birdie putt.
Chung cut the lead to 1-up by winning the 14 th, but he couldn't get any closer. He kept the match alive by sinking a 10-foot putt to halve the 17th hole, but missed a six-footer for birdie on the 18th hole that would have squared the match.
"I was expecting David to make his putt and we would have a playoff," said Kim, who weighs 200 pounds, nearly 100 pounds more than Chung, and stands 6-foot. "David 's putting was awesome this week.
"My heart was pounding really hard. I though I was going to have a heart attack," said Kim in describing his emotions before sinking his last putt.
Chung had plenty of come-back wins during the week, but this one came up short. He missed four putts from 10 feet or less in the final match.
I think it was a relief just to get here," said Chung in grown-up fashion. "I think I have a lot more confidence now. I tried my best and as long as I did that, I'm happy."
The winner receives an exemption into the 2004 U.S. Amateur in August at Winged Foot (N.Y.) Golf Club plus an exemption from local qualifying for the next three U.S. Opens.
The Junior Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.