Thursday, 30 August 2012
HONG KONG, August 30 - Kim Meen-whee hopes to turn his undoubted talent into a first professional victory at next week's Charity High1 Resort Open, but the Korean 20-year-old admits he prefers playing away more than strutting his stuff on the home stage.
Kim will be one of the favourites at the OneAsia event at High1 Resort Country Club in northeast Korea from September 6-9 -- particularly on the back of a season's best performance at the Thailand Open earlier this month which saw him finish joint seventh.
"I feel more comfortable and happy playing in overseas tournaments," Kim said. "The environment … and other conditions are more favourable than Korean domestic tournaments."
In the past decade the country has become a virtual production line for some of the world's most promising male and female golfers -- see the LPGA Tour victory at the CN Canadian Women's Open by 15-year-old amateur Lydia Ko at the weekend when the top five players were all Korean-born -- but the pressure to succeed can also take its toll.
Kim followed up a third place in the Asian Amateur championships as a 17-year-old in 2009 with a Gold Medal at the Asian Games in late 2010, turning professional shortly afterwards and making an immediate impact with a top-ten finish at OneAsia Q-School to guarantee him a slew of starts on the Asia-Pacific's most lucrative regional tour.
But he was brought down to earth with a jolt, missing his first three cuts on the circuit -- including two on home soil.
Kim found his way as the 2011 season progressed, however, and then caught the world's attention at the Kolon Korea Open when he finished in sole third place behind two of the game's biggest young guns -- Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy -- and one ahead of illustrious Major-winning countryman Y.E. Yang.
Just eight years after taking up the game, Kim had arrived.
"I started playing at the age of 11," Kim said. "My father used to play golf often and one day I followed him to driving range. I hit several balls in curiosity while my father was away. I was so excited by watching the ball fly away. After that, I really got interested in golf."
Kim comes from a generation of Korean golfers that is certain to make an impact on the global stage and includes his good friends John Huh and Bae Sang-moon, now plying their trade on the U.S. PGA Tour.
Huh, ranked 15th on OneAsia last year, won the Mayakoba Golf Classic in just his fifth start on the PGA Tour after gaining his card at Q-School, while two-time OneAsia winner Bae announced himself on the international stage by reaching the last eight in the WGC-Accenture Matchplay Championship and then followed that up with a play-off defeat to Luke Donald in the Transitions Championship.
Kim has also seen namesake Kim Bi-o, the youngest player to hold a PGA Tour card in 2011, win three times on OneAsia -- including back-to-back victories in Korea in May.
Now, while thoroughly enjoying his time on OneAsia following a debut season in which he earned U.S. $106,830.33 and finish eighth on the Order of Merit, Kim has decided to follow in their footsteps.
"I am preparing for Q-school of the Japan Tour and the PGA Tour," he said. "My goal for this year is to do well on OneAsia and graduate at those Q-Schools."
Kim's Asian Games Gold Medal gave him an exemption from Korea's compulsory military service under a scheme which allows elite performers in sport and culture to concentrate on their speciality.
This gives the superbly conditioned athlete the opportunity to work on his game -- although he eschews a coach and the technical complications they sometimes bring.
"I have practiced all by myself since I was 14 years old and I have my own swing," he said.
"I don’t see any particular need to find a coach. While I don’t hate to get trained, I think with swing coaches is that many of them just focus on something general, so they are not able to give specific or detailed instructions to their players,"
Consistency with his equipment is something else that gives Kim peace of mind, although he is not afraid to experiment with the flat stick.
"I changed my putter this year and it works pretty well," he said.
Off the course, Kim is a typical young Korean golfer -- impeccably polite but also with a mischievous sense of humour that frequently shows itself with goofy pictures on social media platforms such as Facebook. Music and movies are also important.
"Movies and music are inseparable from me. I always listen to the music wherever I go, and I go to the cinema to watch a newly released film whenever I am free."
Source: OneAsia Media Release