A four-day golf competition can be physically and mentally draining. When adding weather delays, sometimes the event can be even more difficult. Through the obstacles, Idaho senior Leilanie Kim proved that she can compete with some of the best collegiate golfers in the country.
“The first three rounds she played the best golf I’ve seen her play in her career,” Idaho coach Lisa Johnson said. “She was hitting the ball long and straight. Her distance control with her irons was excellent and then she made a lot of putts. She putted so well.”
Kim, who was tied for fifth after three rounds, finished tied for 38th at the NCAA Women’s Medal Championship in Bradenton, Florida.
Johnson said that Kim is “pretty even-keel” so the weather delays didn’t affect Kim.
Kim was ranked 80th in the country according to golfstat.com heading into the national competition and holds that ranking as of Tuesday.
Kim shot a 74, 75 and 71 in the first three rounds at nationals, but carded an 85 in the final round for a four-round score of 17-over-par 305. After firing a 1-under-par 71 in the third round, she moved into a tie for fifth with one round remaining. She struggled during the fourth round though as she posted an 85 to end her collegiate career.
“This was a very challenging golf course and she played extremely well the first three days,” Johnson said. “Today, she obviously didn’t score as well. You could probably attribute it to a lot of things, but at the end of the day, she had a tremendous tournament.”
Johnson said Kim’s ball striking was inconsistent during the fourth round.
“This golf course was tough,” Johnson said. “It was mentally challenging and it just kind of all caught up with her. You make a bad swing or a bad golf course management decision, which happens you know, and it’s very penalizing.”
Alabama’s Emma Talley won the championship by one stroke over Arkansas’ Gaby Lopez and Duke’s Leona Maguire. Talley shot a 3-under-par 285, including a 3-under-par 69 in the fourth round. Lopez and Maguire shot a 2-under-par 286 and tied for second place. Lopez and Maguire also saved their best for last as Lopez shot a 6-under-par 66 in the fourth round and Maguire shot a 4-under-par 68 in the final round.
The top eight teams from the medal championship — USC, Duke, Baylor, Stanford, Arizona, Tennessee, Texas Tech and Washington — advanced to the NCAA Women’s Match Championship, which started Tuesday and ends Wednesday on the same golf course that the medal championship was played.
With Kim’s collegiate career in the books, she will now focus on her professional career.
Johnson said that Kim will play at a U.S. Women’s Open Championship qualifier next Tuesday at the Oregon Golf Association (OGA) Golf Course in Woodburn, Oregon.
But this week, while preparing for the U.S. Open qualifier, she can cherish the time she had in her final collegiate golf competition.
“She just represented herself so well,” Johnson said. “She was on the Golf channel today and she put herself in that position to be on the Golf channel and she got the Idaho name out there and then she just, you couldn’t write a better week. It would have been nice for her to play well today but she was very proud of how she played and she can hang her head high and she did great.”
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at email@example.com