Rookie Wins In Debut


Futures TourSYRACUSE, N.Y. ' Jimin Kang of Seoul, Korea, is certain she made the right decision to turn professional in late June. Making her Futures Tour debut, the 22-year-old fired a four-under-par 67 for a 201 (-12) to capture her first-ever professional win at the M&T Bank Loretto Futures Golf Classic at The Links at Erie Village in Syracuse, N.Y. Kang, whose 54-hole score set a new tournament record, was able to hold off a final-round charge by Lorena Ochoa of Guadalajara, Mexico, who shot a 65 (-6) on the 6,094 par 71 course layout. Ochoa finished one shot behind at 202 (-11).
Kang, who came into the final round with a three-shot lead at eight-under-par 134, picked up right where she left off yesterday. Playing in the last group, Kang added three birdies to her scorecard on two, four, and seven, making respective six, 10, and five-foot putts. She bogeyed eight, but added two more birdies on 12 and 14 and jumped to 12-under-par for the tournament. Kang bogeyed 15, but recovered with a one-foot birdie putt on the par four 310-yard 16th, to end at 12-under-par 201.
'I just can not believe that I won,' smiled Kang, who picked up the $8,400 first-place check. 'I came out here hoping that I would make the cut. I never thought I would win. I was really nervous being out here by myself because I am always with one of my parents. There were many spectators here that returned from yesterday to cheer me on. I was so thankful and excited to have them here. It made the day really unbelievable. I wanted to play well not just for me, but for the fans.'
Ochoa, who was tied with Beisiegel and two others at 5-under-par 137 after 36-holes, recorded birdies on one and six and a bogey on five. She turned at 6-under-par for the tournament, four shots behind Kang who was playing in the same group. Ochoa turned hot on the back nine with birdies on 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18 to come within one shot of Kang at 11-under-par for the tournament. But it wasnt enough and Ochoa carded her third runner-up finish of the season.
Beisiegel sizzled on the front nine, carding five straight birdies beginning on hole three, and was tied with Kang at 10-under-par through nine holes. She continued with a birdie on 11 to remain in contention for her first win, but double-bogeyed 15 to fall three shots back of Kang. She was unable to recover and finished alone in third at 204 (-9).
Kang joins Ochoa and Soo Young Kim of Chung Nam, South Korea, as the only rookies to win on the 2002 Futures Tour. She turned professional June 26, 2002, after two successful years at Arizona State University. A resident of Scottsdale, Arizona, Kang entered the collegiate scene ranked 24th in the country before competing in her first event. Two years later and 13 top 10 collegiate finishes, the former Sun Devil decided that she needed to take the next step.
'I have been seriously thinking about turning professional since my freshman year,' stated Kang, an emotional player who loves to interact with spectators cheering her on. 'Leaving college wasnt easy. I made good grades and I was successful on the golf course. I wanted to go when I was ready and I believe in my heart that I chose the perfect time. This is what I have always wanted to do. '
Kangs professional career began three weeks ago at the 57th U.S. Womens Open Championship, her third appearance at the prestigious event. She missed the 36-hole cut, but her spirits didnt bring her down.
Kang stated, 'I was just so happy to be there amongst the greatest golfers in the world. That experience taught me what I needed to expect of myself as a professional golfer. I realized just how important each stroke is, especially when you are playing for money.'
Kangs goal is to make it to the LPGA Tour for next season. She will attempt to qualify via LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament this October. Kang will compete in two weeks at the Betty Puskar Futures Golf Classic in Morgantown, W. Va., the second to last tournament of the 2002 Futures Tour season. She is using her experience on the Futures Tour to practice and get acclimated to the life of a professional golfer. She is already having a great time adjusting.