MISSION HILLS DESERT JUNIOR
Mission Hills Country Club - Palmer Course
Rancho Mirage, Calif. • June 26 - 29
SIHWAN KIM SHOOTS 66, TAKES FIVE-STROKE LEAD INTO FINAL ROUND
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — When it came time to see which leader in the Boys Division would sneak ahead in the second round Wednesday, it was Sihwan Kim of Buena Park, Calif., who stepped up to the challenge and broke away from the field, shooting a 6-under-par 66. In the Girls Division, Mindy Kim of Diamond Bar, Calif., held on to her first-round lead, shooting a 2-under-par 70 for a 141 tournament total going into the final round.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Mission Hills Desert Junior is being played on Mission Hills Country Club's par-72 Dinah Shore Tournament Course. The 54-hole event features 60 boys and 21 girls, ages 12-18, from six states, including 72 players from California.
The longest consecutive running AJGA event at the same venue, the Mission Hills Desert Junior boasts past champions such as Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Bob May, Kevin Na, Danielle Ammaccapane, Brandi Burton, Emilee Klein, Kellee Booth and Grace Park. These professionals all played in — and won — the Mission Hills Desert Junior before making household names for themselves at the amateur, collegiate and professional levels.
Kim not only bested the field for the second day in a row, but he also went from 4-under-par to 10-under-par for the tournament. He was aware of his five-stroke lead but did not rule out his competition.
“It gets the pressure off, but it's golf,” Kim said. “Anything could happen, it's an unpredictable game.”
Starting on No. 10, he lit up the back nine with four birdies. Kim went on to sink two more birdies on Nos. 2 and 8. The defending champion spoke of his mindset during his bogey-free round.
“I'm just trying to get the momentum going,” Kim said. “(A win) two years in a row, that's hard to do.”
Currently in second place is Tom Lo of Los Angeles, at 70-69—139. Jeffery Kang, also of Los Angeles, stands in third with a 140 tournament total. Tied for fourth are John Yeun of Brea, Calif., and Michael Jae Woo Im of Fullerton, Calif., with matching 142s.
Four strokes ahead and leading for the second consecutive day, Kim resigned herself to staying calm and keeping focused. The 16-year-old said she felt confident after making birdie on the par 3, No. 17. She went on to make birdie three more times during the round.
“I didn't really think about (the lead) today, I just tried to keep focused,” she said. “I don't think about anyone else. I just play my best, my game.”
Two years ago, Kim took a season off and went back to her native country of South Korea. The rising junior was unsure if she would continue playing. However, Kim said she decided to pick up the game again last August and has been competing since.
“I hit it solid and made those putts,” she said. “It feels great. I think it's a great course.”
In the Girls Division, Kristen Park of Buena Park, Calif., sits tied in second at 72-73—145 with Lizette Salas of Azusa, Calif., at 74-71—145.
The American Junior Golf Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The largest Association of its kind, the AJGA has a junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 50 states and 30 foreign counties.
Titleist, the AJGA's National Sponsor, has been the catalyst and driving force behind the Association's success since 1989. Rolex Watch USA, which is in its third decade of support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. More than 160 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 300 wins. AJGA alumni include Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Mike Weir, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr, Candie Kung and Paula Creamer.
The final round of the Mission Hills Desert Junior will begin Thursday, June 29 with tee times running from 6:30-8:27 a.m. off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees. For more information on the Mission Hills Desert Junior, contact tournament headquarters at (760) 324-9400.