English 16-year-old Kris Kim to make PGA Tour debut this week

Kris Kim – English 16-year-old Kris Kim to make PGA Tour debut this week
Kris Kim will make his PGA tour debut at the CJ Cup Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch - Getty Images/Valerio Pennicino

He does not take his GCSEs until later this summer, and was not even born when defending champion Jason Day made his PGA Tour debut back in 2006. But 16 year-old Kris Kim, one of the most exciting prospects in English men’s golf, will make his first appearance on the flagship American circuit this week when he tees it up at TPC Craig Ranch in Texas.

Kim, the son of South Korean former LPGA player Ji-Hyun Suh, received an invitation to play via his sponsors the CJ Group, who also sponsor the CJ Cup Byron Nelson. And far from feeling awed at the prospect of going up against former world No 1s Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott, not to mention Day, the Year 11 pupil at Epsom College says he hopes to be in contention this week.

“My first aim is to make the cut and then see what happens,” Kim said punchily ahead of the event. “I’m one of 144 competitors and we’ve all got a chance.

“Whatever happens it’s going to be super helpful for my future because I’ll gain so much experience. I know I’m still young and pretty much every week I learn a lesson, but this week is going to be a lot bigger.”

Perhaps such confidence is to be expected of Kim, who exploded onto the scene last year, winning the Boys’ Amateur Championship, the European Boys’ Individual Championship and the McGregor Trophy.

Even more memorably, Kim produced stunning undefeated performance on his debut in the Junior Ryder Cup, which saw him claim three wins and a half point at Marco Simone in Europe’s first victory in the match since 2006. He celebrated his 16th birthday a couple of days later watching Europe’s senior stars putting their American counterparts to the sword in Rome.

Kim will be short odds to represent Team Europe himself one day, the way his career is going.

Following his mother’s footsteps

His mother, who doubles as his coach, already knows what it takes to be a professional and has been a guiding force in his rise. Ji-Hyun Suh was one of the Korean pioneers who competed on the LPGA Tour in the 1990s, inspiring the subsequent wave of South Korean success in both the men’s and women’s games.

Kim has clearly inherited some of that drive. He grew up playing at Cuddington Golf Club in Surrey where director of golf Paul Schunter recalled a ferociously ambitious child in an interview with BBC Sport this week. “I’ve never known a more dedicated youngster,” Schunter admitted. “And he could not have asked for better parents. They have been so encouraging. All the pushing has come from Kris because he has always wanted to play and practice more and more.”

Now a member at Walton Heath, Kim says he will lean on his mother even more this week.

“I’ll definitely ask my mum for advice,” Kim said. “It is going to be a very different environment and you don’t know how you will respond to it.

“She’ll help me deal with it. She’s my coach and we talk about everything from dealing with nerves, taking one shot at a time, leaving bad shots behind and keeping it simple, right through to course strategy.”

Earlier this month, another English amateur, 20 year-old Lottie Woad, made the cut on her major debut at the Chevron Championship in Texas, finishing tied 23rd. She earned her call-up by winning the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Woad, though, did not also have to contend with GCSE revision.

Kim admitted he put the books down this week as he tries to follow his compatriot by making the weekend. “I am trying to revise, I promise, but it’s quite tough,” he said. “My schedule is quite busy right now.”

It will be interesting watching how he fares, but there is no reason to suppose he cannot mix it with the best players it the world. Last week, 15 year-old American Miles Russell created headlines in the United States by making the cut in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Suncoast Classic in Florida. And Kim beat Russell 5&4 in the singles at Marco Simone.

Kim said he hoped to be similarly inspired this week. “I can’t wait to play in front of big crowds again,” he said. “I’ve never hit the ball as far as I did at the Ryder Cup.

“The adrenaline rush makes golf so much fun. That said, having played the course, and a few more tour courses, I appreciate the task ahead and look forward to the challenge.”

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