LEAWOOD, Kan., May 18, 2008 - Second-year Duramed FUTURES Tour player Mindy Kim of Diamond Bar, Calif., claimed her first professional title in wire-to-wire fashion as she pulled away in the final round of the Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City Championship on Sunday. Kim finished the tournament at 3-under-par (210), four shots ahead of Jessica Shepley of Oakville, Ontario, who closed at 1-over-par (214) for the weekend.
Kim shattered the previous inaugural tournament record held by current LPGA Tour professional Liz Janangelo, who finished as the 2007 champion with a score of 4-over-par on a wet and long-playing Leawood South Country Club course.
An emotional Kim took the stage on the 18th green to accept her check of $12,600 and crystal hardware as she savored her first win at 18 years of age.
"I feel great because I never thought I would be able to pull it off," Kim said. "The wheels kind of fell off on the back nine, but I'm so excited to get my first pro win at 18."
Holding a two-shot advantage over South Korean rookie M.J. Hur of Seoul heading into Sunday, Kim's lead was extended to as much as six strokes through the front nine, showing no signs of relinquishing the momentum she held through every round.
Kim struggled through the back nine after posting two birdies on the front but had already built up enough cushion and strolled up the 18th fairway knowing victory was imminent. She could finally exhale after having a hard time sleeping on Saturday night waiting for her 12:20 p.m. tee time on Sunday.
"I was so nervous coming into today," said Kim, a former AJGA All-American. "I've been pressured about the money list so I just had to hang in there. I just haven't been in contention in nearly two years."
Despite a win, Kim pinpointed an area of her game she needs to work on before heading to Lake Geneva, Wis., for the Aurora Health Care Championship.
"I had a really tough time chipping," Kim said. "I'll work with my coach because I was chunking, topping and doing everything I could do that didn't help.
With the pressure of moving up in the money list alleviated by making a move up to fourth from her newfound earnings, Kim had kind words for her adversary and newly-found friend after the awards ceremony.
"M.J. (Hur) had some bad breaks out there today, but she's a great player, especially with the putter," Kim said. "She's my friend and I enjoyed being out there with her."
Even though Hur couldn't close the gap on Kim, the 2008 Louisiana Pelican Classic champion passed Vicky Hurst of Melbourne, Fla., and Leah Wigger of Louisville, Ky., to become the new leader on the season money list with a tie for third.
Shepley posted a career-best finish, earning sole possession of runner-up honors, and finished the weekend with back-to-back rounds of 70 (-1).
"I just stayed patient and focused on making pars," said Shepley, who surpassed her sixth-place tie in the Bright House Networks Open this year in Lakeland, Fla. "I didn't get rattled when I made a bogey and stuck with my game plan. I've been working so hard on many areas in my life and it just reminds me of why I'm out here."
The Duramed FUTURES Tour is idle next week before continuing its Midwest swing through Lake Geneva, Wis., for the Aurora Health Care Championship.
For real-time scoring and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images