Kim Kyung-Tae | Player Profile | Nedbank Golf Challengeon October 28, 2011
Asian golf has delivered its next major star in Kim Kyung-Tae. The South Korean golfer has been a revelation on the Japan Tour since he turned professional in late 2006 after winning the Korean Amateur Championship, the Japan Amateur Championship and virtually every major amateur title in Asia.
At the 2006 Asian Games in Doha he claimed the double, winning team gold with Korea and taking individual honours as well. He even won twice on the Korean Tour while still an amateur. Such was his obvious talent that the Korean government exempted him from national service, providing Kim with the opportunity to turn professional.
His first professional tournament was the 2007 Johnnie Walker Classic. He not only made the cut but went on to finish a credible 37th behind eventual winner Anton Haig of South Africa. A month later and Kim claimed his maiden professional title on the Korean Tour. Then he truly announced himself on the Asian stage with a victory in the 2007 Maekyung Open. Staying on the Asian Tour in 2008, Kim struggled somewhat that season. His three victories on the Japan Tour in 2010 saw him become the first Korean golfer to lead the money list there.
In 2011, Kim started to make an impact in the Majors. Playing in his first Masters, he made the cut and finished tied 44th in what was a seminal moment for the South Korean, who qualified for the prestigious Major by virtue of his placing within the top 50 on the world rankings at the end of 2010. “After I made the cut at the Masters, I had more confidence to play golf. And after that I played really well in Korea and even on the Japan Tour. So I got more confidence coming up,” he said.
Kim moved on to Congressional Country Club where he teed it up in his first US Open, also with impressive results. He played all four rounds and finished tied 30th.
“When I was young, I watched the US Open a lot of times. The US Open courses are really tough, with long rough. But after the first round, I got more confidence that I can make it through.”
A 69 placed him tied fourth on two under, four strokes off the first-round lead of Rory McIlroy. While he could not maintain that over the next three rounds, it did give Kim the confidence to know he can compete against the best and realise his dream of playing on the PGA Tour. That is my final destination – the PGA Tour,” he says.
He has also taken inspiration from the 2009 PGA Championship victory of countryman YE Yang.
“After YE Yang won the PGA Championship, I felt like I can do it later on. And Ryo Ishikawa, he’s playing on the Japan Tour, and I am playing with those guys in Japan and Korea, and my skills are getting better and better. So I feel, ‘Why can I not do it on the PGA Tour or in a Major championship?’”
With a finish of sixth in this year’s WGC – Bridgestone Invitational, Kim is becoming more and more comfortable in the bigger events.
All of which shouldn’t make him feel too concerned about making his debut in a select field of 12 of the world’s best at Sun City.
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