CHARLOTTE, NC – Early Thursday afternoon at Quail Hollow’s training ground, Tom Kim is making the jump.
It’s not clear Why He jumps. He’s been preparing for the better part of an hour now, and energy hasn’t been a concern. Kim, the “clown” proclaimed by the international team, has been bouncing off walls since he got to the training range, exchanging laughter and shaking hands enthusiastically with anyone who will listen. Captain’s assistant KJ Choi Pause to try to impart some last words of wisdom. He walked away from Kim, laughing. Then the captain came Camilo Villegas. Same result.
Other than the jumping jacks, the warm-up is flawless. Kim has a great and simple swing. He cuts his blade across the ground with both grace and enthusiasm. Butter pieces can be served on sourdough.
One does not need to watch Tom Kim golf for more than a few minutes to realize that he is committed to stardom in the world of professional golf today. His skills are absolutely amazing, and his energy is very contagious.
“Do you feel it yet?!” He’s half screaming at the new can, Joe Skovronwho could hardly suppress laughter.
In a few minutes, Kim will start the third match of the Presidents Cup alongside fellow Korean KH Lee. Among the casual golf enthusiast, the Presidents Cup is Kim’s first chance to write his legacy. The youngest of eight junior players vying for the international team against a deeply favored American team, Kim could make his way into the world of golf this week. This is a huge opportunity and no oneNot even Kim himself knows how to respond. Very soon now, he will have an answer.
But at first he made 15 more jumps.
The arrival of Tom Kim is still a shocker.
Not just in the President’s Cup, the 20-year-old quickly found himself a beloved player on the international team. On the PGA Tour.
Most fans don’t remember the first time they met Tom Kim. It’s hard to blame them. When Kim walked into the press conference witnessing his unofficial access to professional golf, he was far from the source of the intrigue.
“We are positioning the Asian Tour as a powerful new force on the global golf scene,” Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf Investments, stated that day, declaring that 300 million dollars investment In the tour on behalf of the Saudi Public Investment Fund. In retrospect, it became apparent that LIV’s interest in the Tour was primarily driven by its hopes of producing a competitive golf league, using the guaranteed world ranking points on the Asian Tour offered to mitigate the risks to the best golfers.
Tom – a name he adopted from “Joohyung” after the children’s character “Thomas the Tank Engine” – sat directly to Norman’s left during the press conference, but didn’t have much to say.
“I think I was there because I just won the Medal of Merit on the Asian Tour,” he says now. “It was kind of a spot I needed to fill in.”
As the talented and multicultural face of the Asian Tour, many assumed Kim was the number one target of the rival league. He wouldn’t say if he ever received an offer from Norman, but his presence at Quail Hollow fills in many blanks.
“I always knew I wanted to play on the PGA Tour. That was my main goal,” Kim said on Tuesday. [at the time of the press conference] I had no standing, whether it was the Korn Ferry Tour or the PGA Tour. It’s a crazy turn for me.”
A turn that landed him in the Presidents Cup after less than six months on the PGA Tour. Of course, some of that is due to an international team wracked by defections to LIV, including the likes of world number one Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann in the days before the rosters were finished. But Kim deserves some credit after a rookie season that saw him finish 25th at the US Open, finish third at the Scottish Open, and most notably, his season-ending win at Wyndham. Just weeks after Kim secured full status for the 2023 Tour season in Greensboro, he made his way to the Presidents Cup where, at 20 years old, he became the youngest player on any of the rosters.
“For a guy like Tom Kim to be able to hang out with Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama in the team room last night, I mean, I wish I saw the kid’s face,” said international captain Trevor Immelman. “It was just pure joy, excitement and anticipation for the week.”
“I can’t describe in words, really, how exuberant I am,” he said on Tuesday, and a stunned smile spread across his face. “I have always dreamed of making crazy fist pumps because it is a matching game. So I am really looking forward to it.”
It’s hard to pinpoint the moment Tom the Tank Engine took charge of Presidents Cup week, but there’s no doubt that it will.
The 20-year-old is the talk of the town in Charlotte, both on and off his squad. Like on Tuesday morning, when Immelmann was asked to pick a starting junior basketball with five internationals.
“I kind of like little Tom Kim as the headguard,” said Emelman with a chuckle. “He has a quick mouth on him too, so he’s perfect for a base guard.”
Soon, Kim’s first few days around the international team became a legend. He appeared to play in Charlotte with a Carolina Blue racket grip, an apt nod to the area’s favorite color. After just two days together, seven of the 12 internationals voted him the team’s biggest eater (including a confirmed vote from Tom himself). Later, the wide-eyed Kim admitted that he respects Jordan Spieth so much that he can’t talk to him about trash during the competition, but Masters Champion Scottie Scheffler considers it fair game because he “gives me a hard time”. On Thursday afternoon, Kim was the only member of the international team who called on the crowd for more noise after introducing him into the first tee box (which he responded with some polite boos). Even, it turns out that Kim’s math skills earned him some laughs.
“Today we are twelve,” said assistant captain Camilo Villegas. So I looked at the kid and said, ‘Tom, is this college math? He looked at me and said, “Dude, I didn’t even graduate from high school.”
Kim, for his part, has no defense. He became a professional at the age of 15 and has been a professional player for much longer than that. This, he says, is what it has always been.
Success came quickly to Kim, but his ego did not follow. His character remains joyfully unfazed by the enormity of the life that preceded him – as it should be, for the player still 10 months away from his first legal drink. It is as if he had not yet realized what everyone around him had already accepted at the Presidents’ Cup as a fact: Soon, he would no longer be a stranger to anyone.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” he said when asked if he feels like he’s being noticed more. “But it would be really cool. I still have a long way to go.”
For the first time all week, Tom Kim is on his own.
It’s Wednesday afternoon in the Presidents Cup, and he’s not just another golfer standing on the green, he’s the last golfer a few hundred yards away in either direction. After a run in the morning and a string of time in the afternoon, he arrived at the play area with a steaming head. It’s been here ever since.
The problem at hand is the stroke, which seems to be out of order. Kim does a “circle exercise” – where the player draws a five-foot circle around a hole with golf balls and hits them all in a row. Most players use this exercise to practice three feet and finish it within seconds. Kim has been here for nearly half an hour.
It should be noted that Kim is largely responsible for this endeavor. He chose to practice with his shots toward a hole cut in the middle of a fierce cliff… from six feet away. His bullets glide as far as they travel, rushing toward the hole at different speeds and directions, depending on his location.
It’s admirable that Tom makes the majority of his wets, but he doesn’t make them all, to his chagrin.
“You are kidding me!” He groans when someone comes out to the left, dips his head in his hands and pushes his hat over his head. Kim makes the game look easy. it’s not.
Skovron, the new can, stops him.
“Not to this degree,” he says. “I think making half of them would be fine.”
Kim takes well to training. He settles down, takes a deep breath, and practices the punch again. This time, recover. Little applause and shouts come from the green. Kim looks up, flashing a quick smile. He realizes, for the first time, that there is a crowd gathered to watch him.