That was again the case when amateur Song-Hee Kim of Seoul, South Korea, fired her career-low round of 9-under-par 63 on the third day and stayed out of the field's reach down the stretch in today's final round. Kim, 17, carded a score of 2-under-par 70 today to complete the 72-hole event at 270 (-18) -- a tournament record since the FUTURES Golf Tour began holding a qualifying tournament in 1999. For the record, Kim's performance shattered last year's four-day qualifying total of 279, set by Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome.
'I couldn't catch her,' said runner-up Brittany Lang of McKinney, Texas, who carded rounds of 69-69-69-68 to finish alone in second place at 13-under-par 275. 'I had it to 5 under today, but she was really solid and she's really long. There are a lot of great young players right now, like Paula [Creamer] and Michelle [Wie], and she's in the next wave.'
Co-runner-up with top-ranked amateur Morgan Pressel this summer at the U.S. Women's Open Championship, Lang, 20, should know a thing or two about great young talent. Lang rolled in five birdies and recorded one bogey today as she tried to chase down the lanky Korean teenager. But Kim was unflappable and was one of five amateurs who finished in the tournament's top seven spots -- an unprecedented number of high-finishing ams.
Even after touring the front nine holes of Cleveland Heights Golf Course at even-par 36, the slender 5-foot-9 Korean teen remained patient and rolled in birdie putts from 15 feet on the 12th and from nine feet on the 14th hole in her bogey-free round. In spite of a disappointing day with her putter in which she used 32 putts, Kim managed to play under par and was largely uncatchable.
'I had good concentration this week and it feels good that I had nice scores,' said the shy teen through her translator, Sun Min Lim.
Kim admitted that she was still surprised by her third-round score of 63 and had trouble falling asleep later that night. She also admitted that she was 'a little nervous' beginning today's final round, but probably benefited from the fact that she didn't realize that Lang was the same player who finished second at this year's U.S. Women's Open.
'I didn't know it was her,' she said shyly. 'Maybe it is easier when I don't know about other players.'
Korean amateur Ha-Na Chae fired a final-round 68 and finished third at 10-under-par 278. Chae, 19, along with Kim and amateur Song Yi Choi, were three of the Korean National Team's six members in this week's FUTURES Tour Qualifying Tournament.
'It surprises me a little but Korea has a lot of good players,' said 2005 FUTURES Tour winner Jin Young Pak, 19, who visited Lakeland today to watch the tournament in the city where she won her first professional event back in March.
FUTURES Tour veteran Salimah Mussani of Burlington, Ontario finished solo fourth at eight-under-par 280, in spite of spending most of the night in a local hospital emergency room with severe stomach pains. Mussani went to a local hospital at 3:30 a.m., and then informed medical staff that she would have to postpone a suggested CAT scan for a suspicious appendix because she 'had a golf tournament to play.' Sleepless but determined -- and still in pain -- the former Stanford University player carded a two-under-par 70 to lend credence to the old 'beware of the ailing golfer' adage.
Rounding out the top seven was amateur Angela Park, 17, of Torrance, Calif., at 282 (-6), and amateur In-Bee Park, 17, of Las Vegas at 283 (-5).
'I think I played pretty decent golf, but I have to get better at playing strong at the end,' said former U.S. Girls' Junior Champion In-Bee Park, who shot a two-under-par 70 today with bogeys on her last two holes. 'This week was a really good experience with really great competition.'
It also was a week in which the amateurs certainly grabbed the attention of the professionals in the field. Australia's Nikki Garrett of New South Wales was still shaking her head at the performance of Kim, after having watched the tournament's winner fire a 66 during the second round and her record-setting 63 in the third.
'If I putted like her, maybe I'd be that good,' said Garrett, who was paired with Kim for the two rounds. 'She made it look so easy and it was good to watch.'
As for Kim, she seemed most animated when she spoke of flying home to Korea on Saturday. She admitted that she was homesick for her mom's cooking in spite of her father Chun Bae Kim's valiant efforts to prepare rice, soup and Korean barbecue for his daughter all week.
Kim plans to return to the United States in January to attend the International Junior Golf Academy (IJGA) in Hilton Head Island, S.C., where she hopes to improve her English. And she plans to play on the FUTURES Golf Tour in 2006 as an amateur.
She already has won as an amateur, but to all who were chasing Song-Hee Kim for 72 holes this week, she sure played like a pro.