WOODBURN, ORE. – Thirty-three holes into a two-round U.S. Women’s Open Championship qualifier on Thursday, a tired Auston Kim knew there was work to do if she wanted to earn one of two spots.
So Kim, a Vanderbilt freshman from St. Augustine, Florida, dug deep. Kim rammed in back-to-back birdies on her 34th and 35th holes to force a two-person playoff for the final spot.
Kim then made two consecutive pars to defeat Florida professional Paul Reto in the playoff to earn her way to the 74th U.S. Women’s Open, scheduled May 29-June 2 in Charleston, South Carolina.
“It’s just an unreal feeling,” Kim said after the grueling day. “I’m pretty tired at the moment, but I’m also very happy.”
Kim becomes the first active Commodore to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open since rising sophomore Marina Alex advanced to the 2009 championship in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Vanderbilt head coach Greg Allen was elated for his young Commodore standout.
"I am so fired up for Auston to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open. Getting to play in our country's national championship is as good as it gets. It will be an incredible experience for her and I'm so proud of what she has accomplished. Auston works ridiculously hard and it's nice to see her earn this opportunity."
Kim has played an instrumental role in Vanderbilt’s improved national prominence this year, claiming a handful of top-five individual finishes. She will help anchor the sixth-ranked Commodores when they compete at the NCAA Auburn Regional starting May 6 in Alabama.
With her father Christopher at her side as caddy, Kim stayed with her game plan throughout the two rounds at demanding OGA Golf Course just south of Portland, Oregon.
“I’ve played in a few of these events and it’s a marathon, an endurance test,” Kim said. “I tried to stay patient and take it one shot at a time. I did a pretty good job focusing all day.”
When Kim needed to attack, she did so successfully. On her 16th hole of the second round, Kim sank a 5-foot birdie putt after hitting an eight-iron from the rough to within five feet. On her next hole, he tugged an approach left of the hole. Facing a uphill, right-to-left putt, she rammed in a 25-footer for birdie to force the playoff.
“I wasn’t totally aware of where I stood, but honestly, something told me I had to get it going on those closing holes,” Kim said.
Kim, who competed in the U.S. Girls Amateur Championship several years ago, also matched a siblings’ achievement Thursday. By advancing Auston will join her sister August as having qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open.