Evian Championship Lookback


Nineteen-year old Hyo-joo Kim, the Korea LPGA star, took on a mythic giant at the Evian Championship, 7-time Major champion and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb.  At the conclusion of the first round on Thursday, Kim ‘s 61 (10 birdies, 23 putts) set a new tournament record at the Evian Golf Club and put her at 10-under par, holding the overnight lead over Webb going into Friday’s second round.  Over Friday and Saturday, as the tournament unfolded, others moved into and out of the lead, but Sunday brought a shootout of epic proportions between the teenager and the veteran nearly twice her age.  The duo threaded their way through the spectacular Alpine track for 17 holes in a shot-for-shot contest that wasn’t decided until Webb, leading by one stroke, bogeyed the 72nd hole.  Kim drained a 12-foot birdie putt and collected her first LPGA victory.

Hyo-joo Kim: A Profile

Hyo-joo Kim.

Hyo-joo Kim’s no stranger to competitive golf.  She splashed onto the amateur stage in 2009 as a 14-year old and played her way through the circuit, winning the 2011 R&A Junior Open Girls title in Fife, Scotland and 2011 Junior Orange Bowl in Florida.  Her game was maturing.  In 2012, her rookie year on the KLPGA, Kim foreshadowed what was to come when she finished 4th at the Evian Championship.

In addition to her Evian debut, in 2012 Kim also played the LPGA LOTTE Championship (T12), the Sunrise Taiwan Championship (T18), and the KEB HanaBank Championship (T25) and signed a sponsorship deal with Lotte, reportedly the largest deal for a rookie since Se Ri Pak.

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In 2013 Kim finished 4th on the KLPGA money list and was runner-up for KLPGA Player of the Year.  She also continued dipping her sticks into the LPGA waters, finishing T9th at the 2013 LPGA LOTTE and T22nd at the KEB HannaBank championships.

At the LPGA LOTTE Kim was paired with two other rising teen stars, Ariya Jutanugarn and Lydia Ko, and finished the tournament tied with Ko.  I’m looking forward to the future contests between these three youngsters and an additional one, Minjee Lee.

Kim started the 2014 season with a tie for 7th at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic and a solo 4th at the LPGA LOTTE.  That cool, finely directed 12-foot birdie putt Sunday afternoon on the 72nd hole in the French Alps wasn’t a moment of good fortune.  Hyo-joo Kim’s been playing her way to that victory for five years with steady, hard work!

"She stays very calm and lucid.  Even when you feel a little bit of frustration coming through, she keeps it under control and keeps focused. . .  For me, that is the most wonderful thing to see in a golfer, that control – Hyo-joo Kim’s Caddie, Gordon Rowan"

In addition to the check for $487,500, an out-of-this-world course record set during the first round on Thursday (61, 10 birdies, no bogeys, and a new record in the history of the Grand Slam), Kim moved to 10th in the world rankings and earned her card for the LPGA Tour.  Well played, Hyo-joo Kim!

My Evian Memories

I took away so many images that I collected during the four days of the 20th Evian Championship and tucked into my memory.  All of them were linked to the spectacular Alpine backdrop, many of them tracing the seemingly impossible trajectories the balls followed as they tracked from tee to green.  The challenge of the course was reflected again and again in the faces of the players.

Brittany Lincicome

I’ll not quickly forget Brittany Lincicome’s courage as she faced down that disaster of a a 3rd round to come back with a 67 on Sunday.  It would have been so easy to give up.  But she didn’t.  Lincicome doubled down, focused, concentrated on her swing speed, and showed that she’s good enough to come back.  Her win will come.

I’ll also not forget Mika Miyazato’s Sunday ace on the 16th hole.  It was an amazing shot and I can still see it hitting the green, then curling down, and around, and finally dropping gently into the cup.

Minjee Lee finished alongside world ranked number 1 Stacy Lewis in a T16 and collected her first professional check for a bit more than $42K, more than enough to pay her hotel bill and travel to the next event!  There’s a good deal more to come from this new pro.

Perhaps the most enduring set of images I’ll savor are those surrounding Karrie Webb’s bid for an 8th Major win.  She delivered a game worthy of the champion that she is on Sunday, and some of her shots simply took my breath away.  But most impressive was her extraordinary display of grace on the 72nd green, as she congratulated the teenager who in the end outplayed her by a single putt.

Despite her disappointment, Webb epitomized the essence of golf’s inherent sense of equitable and civil competition when she tipped her hat to Kim:

"Impressive for a 19‑year old.  The putt’s probably 19‑year old nerves, but the shot is definitely very mature.  She played great today."

The game of golf involves three simultaneous contests: first against the course and Old Man Par; second, against yourself and the private inner demons that far too often lurk in the shadows of the course; and, third, against your opponents.  The Evian, one of the penultimate contests in the women’s golf calendar, did not disappoint, bringing all three contests into brilliant focus for me.