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Canada's Kim calm, cool and collected ahead of Augusta National Women's Amateur


If Lauren Kim is intimidated by storied Augusta National Golf Club, it doesn't show.

The 19-year-old collegiate golfer from Surrey, B.C., is the lone Canadian in the field at the Augusta National Women's Amateur this week. She said that her strategy at the elite amateur event is to take the tournament one shot at a time, a strategy that paid off as she had an even-par 72 in Wednesday's opening round.

Kim was in an 11-way tie for 29th, six shots behind leader Hannah Darling of Scotland.

"The biggest thing is to try and get up in the top 30 and make it to the weekend," said Kim after her practice round on Tuesday. "But that's not really going to be on my mind, I'm just going to focus on the shot ahead of me and try and stay present. That's the most important thing."

Kim won the 2023 Canadian Women's Amateur Championship on Aug. 4 to play at last year's CPKC Women's Open at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club in Vancouver. She also won the women's individual stroke play championship at the Jackson T. Stephens Cup in the fourth playoff on Oct. 11.

Now a freshman on the University of Texas's women's golf team, Kim had a practice trip with her teammates where she got to play at Champions Retreat Golf Club, which hosts the first 36 holes of the event on Wednesday and Thursday. She also got to practice at Augusta National, which will host the final round on Saturday.

Kim said that visit helped her determine what she had to work on ahead of the event.

"I'd say a lot of shots around the greens, like short game, and it's quite important to obviously try and hit the green but when you don't hit the greens out here, you've got to make sure that you try and make the up and downs," said Kim. "So still a lot of short game practice and putting as well.

"And some shots around the trees and some of the fairways here are a little narrow with the trees and the branches."

Salimah Mussani, Golf Canada's women’s head coach, is in Georgia with Kim and helped her through her official practice round on Tuesday. Mussani said that as good as Kim's ball striking is, it's her intellect that will see her through to the weekend.

"Her strength is her golf IQ," said Mussani. "I think on this golf course, it's very challenging, it's a tough golf course, but her level of thinking her way around the golf course and managing her golf ball is going to be a real asset, especially in these first two rounds before the cut."

That cerebral approach is why it's so important for Kim to remain unfazed by one of golf's most famous courses.

"She loves the big stage," said Mussani. "She thrives in these types of situations, the Canadian Am and earlier this season the college event.

"She's cut out for these types of things and thrives in them and really looks forward to them and looks at them as opportunities. It's the right mindset, for sure."

LPGA TOUR — Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., was sixth on the Race to CME Globe standings heading into the first round of the T-Mobile Match Play presented by MGM Rewards on Wednesday. Maude-Aimee Leblanc of Sherbrooke, Que., was 130th on the LPGA Tour's points list before play began at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. Henderson opened with a 1-over 73, seven strokes back of leader Sei Young Kim. Leblanc shot a 3-over 75.

PGA TOUR — Two-time Valero Texas Open champion Corey Conners returns to TPC San Antonio this week going for his third title at the event. Conners is the highest ranked Canadian in the field, sitting 47th on the FedEx Cup standings and the official world golf rankings. The product of Listowel, Ont., will be joined by Adam Svensson (78th) of Surrey, Ben Silverman (96th) of Thornhill, Ont., Taylor Pendrith (103rd) of Richmond Hill, Ont., and Roger Sloan (179th) of Merritt, B.C.

KORN FERRY TOUR — Edmonton's Wil Bateman is ranked 15th on the second-tier Korn Ferry Tour's points list heading into this week's Club Car Championship. He will be joined at the Landings Golf & Athletic Club by Etienne Papineau (30) of St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que., Myles Creighton (37th) of Digby, N.S., Jared du Toit (68) of Kimberley, B.C., and Sudarshan Yellamaraju (122nd) of Mississauga, Ont.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2024.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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