MATCH PLAY BRACKET
By Alex Podlogar
We need to talk about Gina Kim’s fist-pump.
No, it’s not Tiger-esque. We can start there. It’s not as demonstrative. Less of an uppercut.
More like a body shot.
It’s short. Compact. But it drives forward. Right hand comes off the putter. Swings back. Then drives through her hips and forward. The ball is safely in the cup, and Kim bellows, “YES!” at the pump’s crescendo. Perfectly timed.
At the end, she didn’t even need one. She walked up to the 17th green of famed Pinehurst No. 2 and marked her ball, just 3 ½ feet from the hole. Her opponent, 2-down and in the left bunker, had fought gallantly but now needed a miracle.
Kim didn’t even need her putter.
When Anna Morgan’s bunker shot didn’t find the hole, she gracefully conceded the match to Kim, the star from Duke. In that moment, five years of frustration on No. 2, five years of never making it past the Round of 16 even though she has had the game good enough to compete on the biggest stages in golf, Gina Kim, of nearby Chapel Hill, N.C., was finally the Women’s North & South Amateur Champion on Saturday.
“This is literally a dream come true,” Kim said, clutching the Putter Boy trophy while standing in the shadow of the Putter Boy statue itself. “Quite honestly, I never expected this to happen. It’s hard enough just to get to match play here.”
Gina Kim makes one of her trademark fist-pumps to celebrate her win on the 10th hole of Pinehurst No. 2 during the Women’s North & South Amateur. (Photo by Wendy Hodges)
Reality has a way of taking its time to settle in. Kim will have her name on the Perpetual Wall in the clubhouse at Pinehurst. Her name will be plated in bronze alongside many of the founders of the LPGA Tour, of recent major champions like Yani Tseng, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lang and Danielle Kang.
On her way there, she even took a nap in Donald Ross’s house.
The match was stopped twice for lightning delays. The first came after the second hole. Close enough to the 3rd green of No. 2, the players and a few officials and volunteers holed up in Dornoch Cottage, Ross’s home for much of the time he lived in Pinehurst. While Morgan and others watched a few holes of the Open Championship broadcast, Kim settled into a chair in the den – under a vintage oil painting of Ross, no less – and crooked her neck and snoozed.
“Best nap I’ve had in a long time,” Kim said.
The pair played on to the 7th before being stopped again, Kim having to leave her ball behind and facing a tough chip from long and left of the green.
But she got up and down to halve the hole to Morgan’s 2-putt par, marching to the 8th tee. Morgan found trouble there, putting off the green to lose the hole and fall 1-down.
And, then, the 9th.
The one on 9. That one people will remember. The putt, too, of course. But even from behind the 8th green, one could hear Kim – could feel Kim – from 150 yards away.
She had hit a searing tee shot onto the green, only to see it trickle into the bunker long. Kim’s bunker shot rolled past the pin and to the front edge fringe, fortunately stopping there. But she buried the putt back up the green for par, then buried her fist into the humid Pinehurst air. Morgan 3-putted, and the lead was two.
Gina Kim hits an approach shot. (Photo by Melissa Schaub)
Another birdie on the par-5 10th – and another fist-pump – had Kim 3-up. But Morgan rifled her approach on 11 to 5 feet, her ball mark just inches from the cup. Kim played a beauty as well to about 10 feet.
Kim made it – another fist pump that could stop traffic on Morganton Road. Morgan’s putt lipped out harshly, and the lead was 4.
“It’s just become a habit from team play,” Kim said of the emotional release. “I noticed I started doing it a few years ago at the Junior Ryder Cup, the Junior Solheim Cup, and then finally at (the NCAA Championship in 2019). For me, those fist-pumps are worth way more than what most people would think. To me, that’s how the momentum changes. That’s how you maintain your confidence and keep your cool. I do that intentionally for myself, and I think because I had that kind of positive energy I was able to pull through to the end, even when Anna was making her comeback.”
Anna Morgan fought back as best she could in a runner-up finish at the Women’s North & South Amateur. (Photo by John Patota)
Yes, Morgan’s comeback. The 2020 Carolinas Women’s Amateur Champion did not let Kim off easily. Her slick, 15-foot birdie down the hill on 13 was mesmerizing, and so too was her brilliant tee shot on the par-3 15th to 12 feet for another birdie. The trimmed Kim’s lead to 2-up.
“I really battled back,” Morgan said. “I played the last five holes in 3 under. I just wasn’t going to give up without a fight.”
Morgan made another birdie on 16 after a gutsy second shot from the native area to the right edge of the green.
But Kim curled in a tough putt from 7 feet to halve the hole – yes, she pumped her fist – sending the match to 17, where she let her clubs do the talking.
“I don’t think I can hear or see myself doing it, it comes out naturally,” Kim said. “Looking back, I’m like, ‘Oh shoot!’
“But it just comes out so naturally because I just wanted this so badly. And the fact that everything worked out the way I wanted it to, especially on a course like No. 2, you just can’t help but feel grateful that things worked out your way.”
For all the accolades – the 2019 NCAA Championship for Duke, the low amateur triumph at the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open, the ACC Championship this year – one thing had eluded Gina Kim.
The Putter Boy.
That’s worthy of some celebration.
119th Women’s North & South Amateur
July 13-17, 2021
Pinehurst No. 2
Round of 32 Match Play
July 15, 2021
No. 32 Gina Kim, 7 d. No. 1 Abbey Daniel, 2&1
No. 17 Addison Baggarly d. No. 16 Grace Curran, 4&3
No. 8 Ashley Lau d. No. 25 Gurleen Kaur, 4&3
No. 9 Jessica Spicer d. No. 24 Teresa Toscano Borrero, 4&3
No. 29 Blair Stockett d. No. 4 Hsin-Yu Lu, 4&3
No. 20 Mychael O’Berry d. No. 13 Savannah Grewal, 3&2
No. 28 Ivy Shepherd d. No. 5 Aneka Seumanutafa, 7&6
No. 21 Allisen Corpuz d. No. 12 Ashley Gilliam, 5&4
No. 31 Amanda Sambach d. No. 2 Brooke Rivers, 4&3
No. 15 Anna Morgan d. No. 18 Maria Bohorquez, 4&2
No. 26 Rina Tatematsu d. No. 7 Catherine Park, 1up
No. 10 Ho Yu An d. No. 23 Maddison Hinson-Tolchard, 3&2
No. 30 Megan Schofill d. No. 3 Sophie Zhang-Murphy, 19 Holes
No. 19 Casey Weidenfield d. No. 14 Jenny Bae, 2&1
No. 27 Kelly Sim d. No. 6 Isabella Fierro, 4&2
No. 22 Brigitte Thibault d. No. 11 Katherine Muzi, 2&1
Round of 16
July 16, 2021
No. 32 Gina Kim d. No. 17 Addison Baggarly, 19 Holes
No. 9 Jessica Spicer d. No. 8 Ashley Lau, 6&5
No. 29 Blair Stockett d. No. 20 Mychael O’Berry, 2&1
No. 21 Allisen Corpuz d. No. 28 Ivy Shepherd, 2&1
No. 15 Anna Morgan d. No. 31 Amanda Sambach, 2&1
No. 26 Rina Tatematsu d. No. 10 Ho Yu An, 2&1
No. 30 Megan Schofill d. No. 19 Casey Weidenfield, 19 Holes
No. 27 Kelly Sim d. No. 22 Brigitte Thibault, 1up
July 16, 2021
No. 32 Gina Kim d. No. 9 Jessica Spicer, 19 Holes
No. 21 Allisen Corpuz d. No. 29 Blair Stockett, 6&4
No. 15 Anna Morgan d. No. 26 Rina Tatematsu, 4&3
No. 30 Megan Schofill d. No. 27 Kelly Sim, 19 Holes
July 17, 2021
No. 32 Gina Kim d. No. 21 Allisen Corpuz, 6&4
No. 15 Anna Morgan d. No. 30 Megan Schofill, 3&2
July 17, 2021
No. 32 Gina Kim d. No. 15 Anna Morgan, 3&1