Aussie Aussie Aussie!
It was an unbelievable event for Australian golf on the Epson Tour at this weeks stop in Longwood, Florida. The IOA Classic. In fact, three Australian women (Grace Kim, Sarah Jane Smith, and Robyn Choi) finished in the top five. But nobody would outclass 21-year-old Epson Tour rookie, Grace Kim, who notched her first victory on the Epson Tour at the 5,975 yards, Alaqua Country Club.
|T2||Hyo Joon Jang||-13||69-67-64|
|T2||Sarah Jane Smith||-13||66-66-68|
After a shaky start on the first hole (where Kim carded a bogey) the seemingly unflappable native of New South Wales went on to card a -7 (64) on Sunday during the final round of the 54-hole event. This following closely on the heels of an equally impressive -6 (65) just a day earlier. As a matter of fact, Kim set the 54-hole tournament scoring record of -18 (195) to win, going away in an event that saw play suspended during the first round.
Ironically enough, it was five years ago that fellow Aussie Hannah Green won the IOA Classic. Green just happens to be one of Grace Kim’s favourite players. In 2018, Green would go on to finish in the Top 10 in the “Race For The Card” which ultimately served as a springboard to get her, her current status on the LPGA Tour.
In a statement after the tournament, Kim stated that she didn’t expect to win so early in her Epson Tour career. Making the victory and occasion even more special was having her dad on the bag.
A pivotal point in time during the final round was when there was a three-shot swing halfway through the front nine at the par-4 5th. South Korea’s Kum-Kang Park, an Epson Tour sophomore, held a two-stroke lead. However, an untimely a double bogey by Park (who sits in the #1 position for the Race for the Card) coupled with a birdie from Kim, turned the advantage in Kim’s favor. Keeping her foot on the gas pedal, Kim never let-up as she continued to keep scoring. Along the way, Kim recorded an additional four birdies and an eagle.
“I actually didn’t know she [Kum-Kang] was taking a drop until she was chipping. It was definitely a big momentum builder, sort of got my confidence back up after a bogey on No. 2,” said Kim, who hit 17 greens in regulation. “I’m glad I made that putt [for birdie].” – Winner Grace Kim
Further placing an exclamation mark on her round Kim emphatically “sealed the deal” by going -3 over the final three holes. The aforementioned eagle occurred on the par-5 16th, her favorite hole on the golf course.
“With the tee on the left side, moved up a bit,” Kim said. “I hit driver then was a bit hesitant with 3-wood but hit probably the straightest 3-wood I ever have and made a 16-foot putt up the hill. It was easy but doesn’t happen like that often”. She knew.
“After that, I had a big sigh and weight-off-the-shoulder moment.”
Kim was a two-time winner on the Women’s All Pro Tour in 2021 as an amateur, Afterward she discussed the impact that the WAPT had on her development.
“The Women’s All Pro Tour is a big stepping stone for the Epson Tour. It helped to build character and confidence in my game,” said Kim. “Those two wins made me learn how to relax on the golf course, focusing on one hole at a time. Like today, anything could have happened. I’m really grateful for those achievements late in my amateur career.”
With the victory at the IOA Classic, Grace Kim earns $30,000 and is projected to jump up to 7th in the “Race For The Card” standings from 75th.