Tom Kim, a new face for internationals in the Presidents Cup

Tom Kim, a new face for internationals in the Presidents Cup

CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) — Tom Kim can be excused for his mistake on Wednesday. The Presidents Cup is new for the 20-year-old South Korean, as it is for seven other international team players facing a daunting task at Quail Hollow.

Only this was more of a math error than a rookie mistake.

“We’re at 12 today, and he makes a mistake doing simple math there,” said Camilo Villegas of Colombia, one of the international team’s assistant captains. “So I looked at the kid and said, ‘Tom, is that college math?’ He looks at me and says, ‘Dude, I didn’t even graduate from high school.

Kim ticks all the boxes when it comes to new faces in this Presidents Cup, which begins on Thursday, only appearances are deceiving.

Yes, at 20 years old he is the youngest player to play for the international team since Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa turned 18 in 2009 at Harding Park. Kim has also won more tournaments this year than anyone on his team. And he brings as much personality as he does gameplay.

He likes to laugh and talk trash. The team has players from seven countries who speak four languages. That’s not a problem. Kim speaks three languages.

Captain Trevor Immelman was asked earlier in the week who his starting five would be if they played basketball. He had Kim listed as his base because of his size and his “quick mouth”.

Kim’s given name is Joohyung. When he was a child, he was so in love with Thomas the Tank Engine that he wanted that name for his name, and it was eventually shortened to Tom.

Born in South Korea, his family moved to Australia when he was a child. He started playing golf at the age of 6 and when the cost of living for him became too high, his parents decided to move to the Philippines. Kim’s golf prospered even more.

As for high school math? As he said in a first-person account for Golf Digest, “College scouts weren’t after me, and my goal was always to turn pro, so I decided to do it early.” He was 15 years old.

Kim worked his way through developmental tours in Asia. His path was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and she spent the last two years on the Korean tour, winning twice.

He finished last year ranked 131st in the world and then quickly made a name for himself. He won the Singapore International to start the year (and was runner-up at the Singapore Open a week later). He received a sponsor waiver for the Scottish Open (Korea-based Genesis is title sponsor) and finished third.

That sent him on his way to a PGA Tour card and he did just that a few weeks later by winning the Wyndham Championship, where he started the tournament with a quadruple bogey 8.

There is very little boredom in Thomas the Tank.

Kim was invited to the Saudi International in February and shared a press conference table with LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman to discuss Saudi money earmarked for the Asian Tour. But the boy left little doubt about where he always wanted to play.

He was thrilled to get his PGA Tour card, and he’s even more excited about the Presidents Cup, a chance to hand the mighty American team its first loss since 1998, before Kim was even born.

“I have dreamed of this when I was a child. For me to be able to represent the international team is an absolute honour. So I’m super excited,” he said. “I can’t wait for Thursday to arrive. I’ve always dreamed of doing crazy fist bumps because it’s a match game. So I’m looking forward to it.”

You won’t have to wait long. Kim is playing South Korea’s KH Lee in the third of five matches Thursday in the opening session of fourballs. They face two-time major champion Collin Morikawa and big hitter Cameron Young, a five-time runner-up in his rookie season on the PGA Tour.

The Americans have all 12 players ranked in the top 25 in the world, and are going for their ninth consecutive victory, playing before a home crowd at Quail Hollow. They are highly favored.

Kim is one of four South Koreans on the team, a record for a golfing nation best known for Major champions and No. 1 players women have produced. Kim joins Lee, Sungjae Im, and Siwoo Kim. International team assistant KJ Choi couldn’t be more proud.

Choi is intrigued by Kim, describing him with terms like “very funny,” “cute,” and “lots of talking.”

“First 15 years, not much is coming for the younger players, the Koreans. But now more than seven, nine, 10,” Choi said. “I am starting in the United States at the age of 30, it is a very difficult English. But the youngest boy is already out of the country and has experience in English. That’s why the most friendship, the comfort in the play, everything”.

All that remains is to see how it translates. Tom Kim is full of laughter and fearless. Thomas the Tank is on the fast track, and the stage has never been bigger for him.

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