Golf notebook: Cal star Kim turns pro

Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

--Michael Kim struggled in the last two rounds of the Tour Qualifying Tournament, posting 74-75 to tie for 56th, but he still decided to turn pro and leave the University of California in the middle of his junior season.
Kim, the 2013 NCAA Player of the Year, announced that his pro debut would come in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, Jan. 23-26.
"I've been waiting for this for a while now and I'm excited to take the next step," Kim told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I just felt like it was time to move on.
"I feel like I've accomplished everything I can in college, other than a national championship."
The 20-year-old Kim, who has conditional status on the Tour, will be playing in the Farmers on a sponsor's exemption in his backyard. He grew up nearby in Del Mar, Calif., and graduated from Torrey Pines High.
Kim phoned Cal coach Steve Desimone to inform him of the decision.
"We knew this was a possibility as last year unfolded," said Desimone, who recently was selected to coach the United States team in the 2014 Palmer Cup matches. "At some point, Michael was going to make this move. We wish him all the best. He was a great Golden Bear and always will be."
Kim tasted some success in two events against the pros this year, tying for 17th to finish as low amateur in the U.S. Open at Merion and tying for 39th in the Greenbrier Classic.
--Cristie Kerr and her husband, Erik Stevens, enjoyed Christmas with their first child, Mason Kerr Stevens, who was born on Dec. 8.
The 36-year-old Kerr, who has won 23 times as a pro including two LPGA Tour majors, thanked well-wishers on Twitter, where she posted a picture of the newborn. She said that her son was born via a surrogate.
"FYI he is our baby," her message read. "100%. I am not physically able to carry our children due to a medical condition. I wish I could. ... We're very blessed and happy and thankful for everyone's well wishes."
Messages of congratulations from fans and fellow LPGA Tour players quickly poured in.
--Zack Fischer birdied the last two holes and captured the Tour Qualifying Tournament. He shot a second consecutive, bogey-free, 8-under-par 64 in the final round to beat Scott Pinckney by two strokes on the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif.
Fischer, who played college golf at Texas-Arlington, bounced back from an opening 75 in the 108-hole event and earned a full exemption on the Tour for 2014.
The others in the top 10 receive full exemptions through the first 12 tournaments, and the top 45 and ties will have a full exemption through the first eight events on the circuit next year.
All 152 players who reached the finals earned some status on the PGA Tour's Triple-A circuit for 2014.
"Negative, very negative," Fischer said of his thoughts after the first round. "I was just saying a prayer and thanking the Lord for giving me the chance to be here. It's still really surreal."
He didn't make a bogey over his last 37 holes.
Pinckney, a 2011 graduate of Arizona State who led after the fourth and fifth rounds of the tournament, closed with a 68 that included costly bogeys on the 12th and 14th holes before he finished with four consecutive pars.
Tony Finau of Lehl, Utah, recorded a 68 and tied for third with Sung Jung Park of South Korea, who finished with a 67, and Steve Saunders, a former All-American at New Mexico, who also had a 67.
Max Homa of Valencia, Calif., the 2013 NCAA champion for Cal, shot 66 and tied for sixth with Jimmy Gunn of Scotland, who had a 71, and Bronson Burgoon, out of Texas A&M, who came in at 66.
Sam Saunders, grandson of Arnold Palmer, closed with a 65 to tie for 11th before catching a plane home to Colorado to be on hand for the birth of his first child, a son, the next day.
--Natalie Gulbis took to Twitter and Instagram to announce that she was married to Josh Rodarmel two days before Christmas on the beach in California.
"Mr. & Mrs.," Gulbis tweeted underneath a picture of the happy couple dressed in white and holding hands while standing in the sand, with waves washing up onto the shore behind them.
"Best day ever," she added on Instagram.
Gulbis grew up in Citrus Heights, Calif., near Sacramento.
Rodarmel is an ex-Yale quarterback and formerly was co-owner of the Power Balance bracelet company. He grew up in Laguna Hills, Calif., and led Mission Viejo High to CIF Southern Section football championships in 2001 and 2002, and also played on the golf team.
--Henrik Stenson of Sweden was unanimously selected as 2013 Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year, it was announced in London.
Stenson, who claimed three victories around the globe last season, became the first player to win the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour and the Race to Dubai on the European Tour, achieving both titles in 2013.
"It's a big honor to be voted the European Tour Golfer of the Year," the 37-year-old said. "It just reflects the stellar year I have had. You can call it a dream season, year of my life, whatever you want. It has been an unbelievable year, and I am delighted to win this award, especially as I am the first Swede to do so.
"You look at the past winners of this award, and most of the greats of European golf are on there, which just adds to the prestige of winning it. To win the FedEx Cup and the American Tour Championship in some style, and then follow that by taking the Race to Dubai was very special."
Before Stenson began his late-season surge, the favorite to claim the award was Justin Rose of England, who in June became the first Englishman in 43 years to capture the U.S. Open with a brilliant performance at Merion.
Stenson heated up by finishing second behind Phil Mickelson in the Open Championship at Muirfield in July. In August, he tied for second behind Tiger Woods in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational before finishing third in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
In September, he captured the Deutsche Bank Championship in the second round of the PGA Tour playoffs before finishing things off with a three-stroke victory in the Tour Championship to wrap up the FedEx Cup.
Stenson finished the same way on the Euro Tour in November, tying for seventh in the Turkish Airlines Open before winning the DP World Championship-Dubai by six strokes to claim the Race to Dubai title.
Despite battling a right wrist injury, he finished in the top 10 in seven of his last 11 official events of the season.
--Dustin Johnson dumped caddie Bobby Brown once before and brought him back, but now the relationship seems to be over for good.
Johnson, 29, had his younger brother, Austin, on the bag last month when he won the WGC-HSBC Championship in China, his first victory in a World Golf Championships event.
Now, he's making it a full-time partnership.
"Having my brother on the bag has been cool; I love it," said Dustin Johnson, who has 10 wins as a pro but gave away several good chances to claim his first major title. "He's my brother. I like having him out here. And we do good."
Brown received much of the blame when Johnson blew a three-stroke lead in the final round of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by closing with an 82, and for Johnson being assessed a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a bunker while holding a one-shot lead on the final hole of the PGA Championship two months later at Whistling Straits.
The following season, Brown gave him the wrong tee time, and Johnson avoided being disqualified from the Northern Trust Open at Riviera only by hustling to the first tee with six seconds to spare. He still received a two-stroke penalty.
Austin Johnson played basketball at Charleston Southern before transferring to the College of Charleston to finish his degree. He will be on the bag when his brother defends his title in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions this week at Kapalua.

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