April 6, 2011
University of Michigan senior men's golfer Lion Kim will play in the 2011 Masters, with tournament week running Monday through Sunday, April 4-10, at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. He earned an invitation by winning the 2010 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
Wednesday for Kim marked the Par 3 Contest, one of the more special traditions at the Masters. Paired with Bubba Watson and Aaron Baddeley, Kim teed off at 1:05 p.m. on the nine-hole course that requires only short irons and wedges, and he was thrilled to be a part of it.
"It was just a fun, fun day," said Kim. "Aaron had his family out, Bubba had his friend looping, and I had Chris (Whitten) looping for me. We weren't trying to necessarily win it, but we just wanted to go out and have fun."
Both Watson and Baddeley were impressed with Kim's swing. "He is a very nice kid," said Watson. "He is a young kid, but he swung it well. It's great to see all the amateurs to be able to play in this. It was fun to play with him."
"He looked like a good hitter," added Baddeley. "He seems to have a good stroke. Obviously, I have not seen the rest of his game, but going off of that he seems like a good player."
Asked if there was one particular moment he will remember more than another during the Par 3 Contest, Kim simply said, "Every hole is a memorable moment for me. Playing one through nine on the Par 3 course at the Masters will be something I will never forget."
The Last-Second Substitute
Kim's brother was originally scheduled to be his caddie during the Par 3 Contest, but he was unable to make it. So U-M assistant coach Chris Whitten was pulled in from the crowd on the No. 2 tee to fill in. In a quick change, Kim's tournament caddie, Louis Laurence, shed his white jumpsuit and passed it on to Whitten.
"I just happened to be at the right place at the right time," said Whitten. "I just tried to stay out of the way the best I could. Just to be here and watch is a good enough experience. Then to get called in, I was actually a little nervous. I just wanted to be in the right place and do what I could."
"I asked Chris to be my caddie for the tournament, but when I found a guy he was out, so I figured I owed him," said Kim. "My brother was unable to make it, so I asked Chris to loop for me in the last second and it worked out."
No More Jitters
Playing the in Par 3 Contest, Kim had another chance to play in front of the larger galleries. He said it really did not affect him at all.
"It only really took me one day, to really get used to playing in front of these crowds," said Kim. "I know now I can just be myself and do what I need to do to prepare."
Turning Attention Toward Thursday Morning
With all the practicing done and all the lighthearted times over, Kim said it was time to change his focus and turn his attention to tournament play.
"It's been an exciting time, but now it is time to shift my focus toward the tournament," said Kim. "I am going to go to the range and work on a few things, and then just rest before tomorrow's preparation."
Kim's strategy is simple for Thursday morning as he plans to just focus on his first tee shot and let the rest of the round take care of itself.
"You have to be yourself and play to your strengths," said Kim. "Don't try to play someone else's game. Stay calm, stay patient and have fun. I am an amateur out here. I am just trying to learn as much as I can and have fun."
The Wednesday Warm-Up
Wednesday morning's practice range warm-up had a few extra fans in attendance, as several of the top tour professionals were on hand to play a practice round.
Tiger Woods was in attendance, just two hitting slots down from Kim.
"It was pretty cool," said Kim of watching Woods' practice routine. "It's what it is all about. I just want to get close to these guys and see how they strike the golf ball. Again, I am here to learn as much as I can and see how these guys prepare for practice rounds and tournament conditions and things like that."
The Maize and Blue Support Team
Kim has had plenty of support from his family, but he has also had plenty of Maize and Blue support. U-M coaches Andrew Sapp and Chris Whitten have been at Augusta National to support their senior captain. The list of other U-M supporters continues to grow: former men's golfers Mike Affeldt, Andy Matthews, Nick Pumford, Michael Slovitt, Ross Millman, Billy McKay; former women's golfer Ashley Bauer and her father, Glen; coach Sapp's father, Jim; U-M women's basketball staffer Mark Uitermarkt and U-M facility director Chris Ehman.
Kim indicated he will wear his special maize and blue FootJoy shoes during Friday morning's round.