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Cal's Kim goes from NCAAs to Open qualifier

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BALL GROUND, Ga. – Michael Kim had little time to dwell on Cal’s gut-wrenching loss Saturday in the NCAA Championship.

A day later, the 19-year-old was on a flight to Ohio to receive the Jack Nicklaus Award, given annually to the top player in college golf.

“It definitely helped get my mind off things seeing the best player ever,” he said, smiling.

After the ceremony, the rising junior headed to the airport for a 2:45 p.m. ET flight and nearly missed his connection in Chicago, needing to sprint to his gate with only five minutes to spare. He didn’t return to his hotel until after 8.

The hectic travel schedule didn’t seem to faze Kim. He had played Hawks Ridge the Saturday before the NCAAs, with teammate Brandon Hagy (who tied for 11th Monday) and assistant coach Walter Chun.

In the sectional qualifier, Kim turned in an opening 67, then birdied five of his last 10 holes in the afternoon round to post 11-under 133 and share medalist honors with Ryan Nelson. At Hawks Ridge, 51 players were vying for three spots.

“It’s a cherry on top,” he said. “It’s been an incredible year – a year I honestly didn’t expect at all.”

Last week Kim, who was ranked as the No. 1 player in college golf for the 2012-13 season, had a forgettable NCAA Championship. His T-49 finish in the stroke-play portion was his worst result of the season – prior to that, he had four wins and 10 top 10s with no result worse than 11th – and lost both matches in team play as Cal was stunned by Illinois in the semifinals.

“We just decided we’re not going to let one tournament ruin our great season,” he said. “I tried to move on and do my best here.”