Surrey’s Lauren Kim Qualifies To Play In Her Second Straight U.S. Women’s Open

Lauren Kim (L) And Gabriela Ruffels Were The Two Qualifiers For The U.S. Women's Open At VGC - Image Courtesy Golf Canada/Twitter

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

Lauren Kim’s one and only visit to California’s Monterey Peninsula occurred a few years ago when she and her family were driving home from a junior golf tournament in the San Diego area.

Kim, all of 11 or 12 years old at the time, vividly remembers what a beautiful spot it was. “We went to all of the golf courses in the area and picked up every scorecard,” she says. “And then we went to the beach and dipped our toes in the water.

“I bought one of those bouncy balls that had a big Pebble Beach logo on it. And it had golf ball dimples on it. I thought this is really cool, I want that.” She also decided right there and then that she’d one day play Pebble Beach.

On Monday, that dream became a reality. Kim will not only play Pebble Beach, she’ll play it in this summer’s U.S. Women’s Open.

On a scorching hot Monday at Vancouver Golf Club in Coquitlam, the 17-year-old Kim played her way into what will be her second straight U.S. Open by finishing second in a 36-hole qualifier.

Her score of five-under par — after rounds of 70 and 69 — was bettered only by Australian Gabriela Ruffels, a two-time winner on this year’s Epson Tour who finished at seven-under. Ruffels and Kim claimed the two spots that were up for grabs for the 57-player field.

Image Credit Brad Ziemer/BC Golf

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Kim trailed co-leaders Ruffels and Vanessa Zhang of Vancouver by one shot after the morning round. Her only bogey during her second round came on the par 4 first hole — her 10th of the round — and it fired her up. “That was easily preventable, I just didn’t hit it hard enough,” she said of the approach shot she left short of the green. “That kind of just gave me the anger and the fire to push.”

She birdied the uphill par 4 fourth hole and the long par 5 sixth on her way in. Kim, who had her dad, Kevin caddying for her, tried to block out any thoughts of Pebble Beach as she played her final few holes. “My dad told me at one point that I was tied for the lead, but I was just trying to make my pars and make some birdies.

"I was just trying to think about every shot, I was trying not to think ahead. I think that is something I have improved on quite a bit, especially since that Open last year.”

Kim, now in Grade 12 at Earl Marriott Secondary and on her way to the University of Texas to begin her collegiate golf career this fall, thinks she learned at lot at last year’s U.S. Open, which was played at Pine Needles Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C.

“I think I have improved a lot from last year and I am ready to go kick some butt,” she said with a laugh. “I learned so much from the pros just being there last year, especially when I got to play with Lexi (Thompson). There were so many lessons that I learned.”

Image Courtesy Lauren Kim

Lauren Has Good Memories Of Playing With Lexi Thompson At Last Year's U.S. Women's Open

Kim was a late addition to the U.S. Open field last year, drawing in after finishing a qualifier as the first alternate. She said she will try to put less pressure on herself at this year’s tournament at Pebble Beach. “I think the biggest thing I learned from the Open last year was to not think about trying to make the cut,” she said. “I just want to play my best and soak in every moment.”

When Kim posted her 69 and five-under total, she actually had a one-shot lead on Ruffels, who was several groups behind. But Ruffels closed with four birdies on her final nine holes to claim medalist honors. Kim was delighted that she was able to challenge Ruffels, a 23-year-old former U.S. Amateur champion, for the lead.

“I mean, she’s a pro and to say that I am only two shots off the lead is pretty good and shows me where my game is at right now.”

By claiming medalist honours, Ruffels did what most expected. She has been playing superb golf this year and won the last Epson Tour event in Kansas City by four shots, with a 54-hole score of 19-under par. She decided to come to the Vancouver Golf Club qualifier in part because her family has close friends in the area.

“We actually have some good family friends who live in West Vancouver and it kind of fit with the Epson schedule,” she said. “Vancouver is beautiful. I am glad I came here.”

And don’t try to tell Ruffels that it was hot on Monday. “I am Australian and live in some pretty hot places, Orlando, Florida and Palm Springs, so I am used to the heat,” she said. “So this was no problem.”

Ruffels headed straight to the airport after her second round. She is in the field for this week’s Epson Tour event in Florida and was on the red-eye to Toronto.

Zhang finished alone in third at two-under par and earned first alternate status. She’ll be hoping to get the call that Kim received last year. Sarah Rhee of Lynnwood, Wash., finished at one-under par and is second alternate.

The U.S. Women’s Open goes July 6-9 and is being played at Pebble Beach Golf Links for the first time.

Click HERE for final qualifier scoring.