BELLEAIR, Fla – Tour friends Sei Young Kim, led by In Gee Chun, who was holding a 2008 Dom Perignon bottle, rushed to the 18th green to soak the LPGA’s hottest player. The champagne celebration was courtesy of the Pelican Golf Club, and Kim made sure to get a taste of it.
“It all feels like taking a shower in champagne,” Kim said. “I still feel… I feel, you know, like (a) little drunk.”
Kim, 27, burst into her infectious smile as she recounted the party scene. Six weeks after beating the field at the KPMG PGA Women’s Championship for her first major title, she returned to the tour and picked up where she left off, winning the first Pelican Women’s Championship by three strokes over Ally McDonald. In a week where just 19 players beat parity on the windswept Florida West Coast, Kim finished 14 under 266. Stephanie Meadow’s third place marked her best result since the Women’s US Open 2014 at Pinehurst.
Kim’s 12th career LPGA title isn’t enough to overtake top-ranked Jin Young Ko, but she’s never been so close. Becoming the No.1 player happens to be Kim’s main goal for 2020.
“Before, the Olympic gold was my biggest goal this year,” she said, “but it got canceled. Maybe next year.
Kim’s dozen titles make her the third-most successful South Korean winner in LPGA history. She passes Jiyai Shin (11) and only drags LPGA Hall of Famers Se Ri Pak (25) and Inbee Park (20).
The third degree black belt isn’t one to back down from a fight. In the third round, when McDonald made the 12th hole par 3 to reduce Kim’s lead to one stroke, Kim responded by birding four in a row at the No 14-17.
In Sunday’s final round, Kim’s lead reached six at the start of the top nine. As Kim walked to the 10th tee eating a sandwich, however, his lead over McDonald’s was reduced to three. She took out her makeup pact on the tee box to powder her face before mounting her final load. Needless to say, she didn’t look worried.
“She’s comfortable and confident,” said longtime Kim caddy Paul Fusco, “which is exactly where you need to be.”
A series of huge ups and downs for par at the start of the last nine kept Kim’s cushion intact. A birdie on the par 5 14th zapped some of the pressure that had built up as his lead was reduced to four.
Large numbers of Pelican members watched the latter group, including Fred Ridley, president of the Augusta National Golf Club.
By the time the final trio reached the 18th, Kim held a five-stroke advantage and a sea of limbs wearing blue blazers had surrounded the green. There is speculation that Kim might have her own jacket. Blue would go well with Kim’s red skort.
Kim started wearing red on Sunday at age 14 at the Korean Women’s Amateur Championship.
“Just imitating Tiger,” she said, “but in a different way. … He was wearing a T-shirt, but I was wearing pants.
Tiger Woods has certainly never celebrated a major championship like Kim did last month. After winning the KPMG at Aronimink Golf Club, Kim returned to South Korea for an emotional reunion with her family. She then had to spend two weeks in quarantine with her parents in Seoul. They put all of her meals outside her bedroom door as she secluded herself with movies, a notepad and phone calls to friends.
Kim spent four weeks at his home in Korea and soaked up the long-awaited victory booty. She then returned home on her own to Dallas, where she practiced for five days before heading to Florida.
Next week, she will travel to Houston with Fusco to get two rounds of practice at Champions Golf Club before the US Women’s Open. She will skip the Volunteers of America Classic in two weeks to stay fresh for the USWO and CME Group Tour championship, which she won last year, taking home $ 1.5 million, the biggest salary in the history of the women’s golf.
CME’s victory last November allowed Kim to play more relaxed at KPMG. The victory at KPMG, she believes, will help her when she tries to win a second major title in Houston.
“I feel happy when I walk the course,” she says.
We feel even better after this sumptuous champagne.