In her first collegiate golf invitational, Idaho freshman Michelle Kim didn’t appear to be rattled. Instead, she stepped on the course and shot a 2-under-par 70 in the first round.
The Surrey, British Columbia, native took fourth and finished with a 1-under-par 215 at the Washington State Cougar Cup Monday and Tuesday at Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman.
Idaho finished second as a team with a 16-over-par 880.
For her performance, Kim earned the Big Sky Conference Golfer of the Week award.
“I missed a couple short putts and a couple shots that I really wanted, but I guess it evens out to me making a lot of other good shots,” Kim said.
Kim didn’t qualify for Idaho’s first invitational of the season — the Colonel Wollenberg’s Ram Classic Sept. 14 and 15 in Fort Collins, Colorado, in which the Vandals took 10th.
“Michelle’s been a pretty steady player,” Idaho coach Lisa Johnson said. “She had one bad day of golf that prevented her from going to Colorado unfortunately. I’ve known all along she’ll be one of our top players. That’s just how it works sometimes in golf. You have a bad day and you don’t go.”
“I missed the qualifying and I got over it,” Kim said. “I played well here and it’s great. I’m happy about that.”
Four Vandal golfers finished in the top 17.
“We played well,” Johnson said. “We played very consistent golf. (I’m) very proud of the team.”
However, Johnson also said improvements need to be made in the short game.
“We left a lot of strokes out there today,” Johnson said. “We made a lot more errors than our score reflects … It’s always a constant battle and more importantly we need to work on the team believing in themselves and believing that they’re good putters because they are. It’s just a matter of all of them believing it.”
Washington State finished first and shot the low score each round. The Cougars posted a 2-over-par 866. The Cougars’ Cherokee Kim took first individually with a 5-under-par 211.
Washington State and Idaho practice at Palouse Ridge, so Johnson said there is a home course advantage.
“I think it’s a big advantage down the stretch because players are comfortable with the course,” Johnson said. “They know what to expect. They know what they’re capable of doing so if they are in the right frame of mind, they can build off all the positives that they’ve experienced out here and the knowledge, especially the seniors having played this tournament four straight years.”
Johnson said the Idaho players know the hole locations and they know what a good score is based on the conditions, which is helpful.
Idaho senior Kristin Strankman tied for ninth with a 4-over-par 220. She shot her best score in the final round, firing an even-par 72.
“The third round you’re more comfortable,” Strankman said. “It’s just nice to feel comfortable out there and we knew we had a chance today so we just had a mindset to go out and try to do as well as we could.”
The Vandals play at the Price’s Give ‘Em Five Intercollegiate Oct. 5-7 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Idaho won that invitational last year.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CabezaGarrett
Photo by: Alex Brizee