LAKE GENEVA, Wis., June 1, 2008 - Mindy Kim of Diamond Bar, Calif., completed another wire-to-wire victory -- this time at the Aurora Health Care Championship -- firing a final round of 1-over-par 73 on Sunday. She posted a three-day total of 3-under-par 213.
Three shots back, Kristen Samp (69) of Moberly, Mo., Leah Wigger (69) of Louisville, Ky., Sarah-Jane Kenyon (74) of Queensland, Australia, and Briana Vega (74) of Andover, Mass., tied for second at even-par 216. Kim earned $14,000 for her win and moved ahead into the top spot of the season money list after beginning the weekend in the No. 4 position.
Kim has held the lead for six consecutive rounds dating back to the first round of the Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City Championship two weeks ago, becoming the first player to do so since alumna Grace Park held the lead in all six rounds for back-to-back Tour wins in 1999, in York, Pa., and Morgantown, W. Va.
Kim said she had no cases of the "yips" coming into today's final round, a symptom that bothered her before teeing off on the final day in Leawood, Kan. Even though Kim was displeased with the way she was playing, the two-time Tour champion walked up the 18th fairway knowing she only needed two putts to seal her second win in a row.
"It feels great and I really thank God," said Kim, 18. "It takes a little bit of luck to win tournaments and I definitely had that, but I feel really fortunate at this age to be winning and putting myself in contention again.
Even Kim is surprised at the way her career has taken off. She has emerged from being a confused rookie last season and learning the ropes to becoming a two-time professional champion. Kim said that missing the cut at the Duramed FUTURES Tour Qualifying Tournament last November was a serious wake-up call.
"I think it's just been all about maturity and trying to be more professional on the golf course," Kim said. "I was very independent and it was a reality check for me. Missing the cut at Q-School hurt me."
Kim started the day with a birdie on her first hole and started to pull away on the back nine, extending her lead up to five shots as she made the turn. For the second tournament in a row, Kim was the only player in the field to finish under par.
"It meant a lot to jumpstart my day with a birdie," Kim said. "The scoring conditions were perfect, but I'd rather start lousy and play better towards the end. I had too many three-putts on the back nine (33 in the round) and they made me angry."
Even though she has no immediate plans to spend her earnings, she was ready to buy her cousin and caddie, James Shim, a nice dinner at a steakhouse of his choice. Despite another win, Kim said she needs practice putting and chipping before going to Decatur, Ill., for the Tour's next event in two weeks and the Tour's only major championship.
An anonymous fan may have summed it up best for Kim after she was done at the awards ceremony.
"Any player that can birdie holes three and eight on the Palmer Golf Course is worth watching," he said to Kim. "I'll be looking for you on ESPN next year."
Kenyon, a non-exempt LPGA Tour member and 2005 Duramed FUTURES Tour winner, said Kim was tough to catch throughout the weekend.
"She played great all week," Kenyon said about Kim. "It's nice to finish where I did and I'm headed in the right direction."
The winds died down and the sunshine was abundant on Sunday, allowing players to fire at the pins and post lower scores than they had posted in earlier rounds. After only four players went under par yesterday (Vega, Samp, Annie Young of Highland, Utah, and Ashley Knoll of The Woodlands, Texas), 14 players were able to do so in the final round.
Jenny Gleason of Clearwater, Fla., led the way with Sunday's low round of 6-under-par 66 and moved up the leaderboard into a sixth-place tie. Chella Choi of Seoul, South Korea, and Young came in at 4-under-par 68 to tie for eighth while Wigger, Samp and Sophia Sheridan of Guadalajara, Mexico finished at 3-under-par 69 for the day.
The Tour is idle next week before its stop in Decatur, Ill., for the Michelob ULTRA Duramed FUTURES Players Championship, set for June 12-15.
For complete scores and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
Weather: Mostly sunny with a high of 78 degrees and winds blowing between 5-10 mph.
photos Janos Schmidt