September Featured Player: Gina Kim
Updated: Dec 19, 2019
Photo: Duke Women's Golf
Hailing from a small town in North Carolina, 18-year-old Gina Kim has had an impressive golf career since she started playing at a young age. Winner of the 2016 Rolex Girls Junior Championship, she finished T3 at the Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship and made it to the semifinals in the U.S. Girls Junior Championship this past summer. Kim has played in three ANNIKA Invitationals during her junior career, and most recently made her college debut as a Duke Blue Devil at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate presented by 3M where she finished T29 in the individual competition to help Duke place fifth. Gina took some time to speak with us about her career so far and what she hopes to accomplish during her time in Durham.
What is your favorite place you have traveled?
Evian Les-Bainnes, France: Absolutely beautiful and amazing golf course.
Who is your favorite golfer?
Annika Sorenstam, because contributions she has made to women’s golf are immeasurable. She is a legend and I hope to be like her in the future.
What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
My phone is the number one thing I can’t be apart from. I’m so used to having it around with me on the driving range to take videos of my swing and wherever I go to call my best friend, Jennifer Chang.
How do you handle the busy schedule that comes with being a student athlete?
Time management is key. You never have time to waste. If I manage to have free time between class and practice, it ends up being used to finish homework that’s due a couple days later. I try to work ahead so during days when my team and I are on the golf course, I can just go to my dorm, take a shower, and go to sleep early to get ready for the next day.
How do you spend your free time outside of golf?
I like to spend time with friends and family, exercising with my trainer, and drawing in my sketchbook.
Who is your biggest role model and why?
My parents are my biggest role models. Being immigrants and having to travel to the U.S. to pursue careers as professors even though English isn’t their first language really makes me proud of their accomplishments. Not only that, they sacrificed some of their time, money, and effort to support me playing golf. I wouldn’t have been able to get this far without them.
What is something that not many people know about you?
I broke my arm in sixth grade on the golf course. I practiced late and it was really dark. I tripped on a putting-only sign and landed on the cart path with my arm underneath.
What is your greatest golf memory so far?
Playing team events like the Junior Ryder Cup, Junior Solheim Cup, and many more. Having a team really makes the experience even better.
How/why did you start playing golf?
My dad and grandpa loved golf, so my dad took me to a driving range with him so we could spend time together. My sister also came with us, but as soon as we got to the range and hit a couple of balls, she immediately quit and told my dad she hated it. I felt really bad for my dad because I could tell he wanted at least one of us to stick with the game. So, I told him I really liked golf (even though I really didn’t at the time) and that I would continue to keep playing which made his day. I eventually started to love the game and stuck with it ever since.
Do you have any personal goals set for your first season at Duke? If so, what are they?
Yes. I would like to win at least two college tournaments as an individual and win even more as a team. I want to be able to contribute a lot to my team since it’s a huge honor to represent my school and the amazing program that Coach Brooks has worked so hard for.
What was your favorite golf tournament you have ever played in?
Wyndham Cup and Junior Ryder Cups were my favorite tournaments. Being able to play alongside your friends is an amazing experience and you end up creating a closer friendship than before.
When you are practicing on your own, how long does a typical practice last? What are you focus points?
A typical practice lasts for about four hours. I try to focus on the different parts of my game and go through my routine while practicing so I can make the environment around me feel like a competition. At the moment, I am working hard on my short game and experimenting with different clubs from different lies.
How do you handle pressure during a tournament?
I talk to myself a lot. Even though I may look crazy to others, it really helps me focus and calm myself down since I’m the only one out there who can control my game.
What are you looking forward to most about your first year of college?
I’m really excited about the college tournaments. They seem fun since you play as a team and there’s a high level of competition.
What would you say is your favorite part about playing of golf?
Competition is definitely the best. That’s one of the main reasons why I love golf and why I managed to stick with it for years.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring female golfers who are just starting to play the game?
Always have patience with the game. Golf is much harder than what most people think. It took me 10 years to get to where I am, and I can confidently say that I have so much more to learn. Golf is constantly a learning process and the rewards of making new friends and having fun is definitely worth your time.
Kim, who has played in the 2016 Junior Ryder Cup, 2017 Junior Solheim Cup and is a two-time participant in the Wyndham Cup, also played in the U.S. Women’s Open this year where she missed the cut. She also finished 10th overall this summer in the Toyota Junior Golf World Cup in Japan, leading the United States team to a fifth-place finish. Given Gina’s career resume to date, it seems her future is bright and her goals are not far out of reach.