Bio Kim Qualifies Easily at Newport Beach

Bio Kim

Bio Kim celebrates after one of his 13 birdies that earned him medalist honors at U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying at Newport Beach, Calif. (USGA/Kohjiro Kinno)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

By Larry Morgan

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – There was supposed to be plenty of high drama during U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying, but Bio Kim, of Irvine, Calif., cruised through 36 holes at Newport Beach Country Club and Big Canyon Country Club. The 22-year-old Tour member started with a 9-under 62 at Newport Beach C.C., followed by a 1-under 71 at Big Canyon C.C. to top the 102-player field by four shots at 10-under 133.

“Before I came here, I was dreaming about playing in the U.S. Open,” said Kim, who was competing in a sectional qualifier for the first time. “I actually felt very comfortable that I could make it.”

The winner of the Korea and Japan amateurs in 2008, Kim was one of five players to earn spots in the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. Also advancing were Steven Alker of New Zealand, Roger Tambellini of Scottsdale, Ariz., Max Homa of Valencia, Calif., and Cory McElyea of Santa Cruz, Calif. There were two alternates: Jesse Schutte (first) of La Quinta, Calif., and Garrett Sapp (second) of Long Beach, Calif.

Kim, who lost his PGA Tour playing privileges in 2011, made only three bogeys Monday. Two of them came on his final holes of the day, including the par-4, 393-yard ninth hole (his 18th of the afternoon) in which he hit his second shot into water fronting the green.

He totaled 13 birdies in touring the par-71, 6,591-yard Newport Beach course and par-72, 7,005-yard Big Canyon, regarded as the much less forgiving layout.

“It was a hard 71. Just dumb mistakes,” he said of the way he finished his day. “I was three under going into the last two holes, then made some dumb mistakes. I just have to get over it, I’m done, it’s a long day, just go and have a good dinner.”

Kim played Big Canyon for the first time on Sunday. He wasn’t planning to take a closer look at the course unless he missed the cut at last week’s Tour event in Potomac, Md., which he did.  Kim flew home and played Big Canyon, which felt comfortable to him.

He certainly appeared to be at ease with his putter in the morning round. He made 10 birdie putts, all from inside 20 feet.

“My putter kept me alive,” said Kim, who had been having some trouble with his driver lately. “I started to feel a little better about my game after a few holes.”

Most of Monday’s theatrics involved the other qualifiers.

Roger Tambellini, who just turned 38 and played four seasons on the PGA Tour, had to make a nerve-wracking up-and-down from just off the final green – chipping down a steep slope from about 20 feet with water guarding the putting surface – to tie with Alker at 6-under 137 and clinch his U.S. Open spot.

Tambellini, who played in the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, asked someone where he stood after he completed his 17th hole. “Probably shouldn’t have,” he said with a smile.

He hit a sand wedge just over the green, and left his delicate chip just two feet from the hole. But even that wasn’t easy.

“Everything was shaking,” he admitted.

Homa, on the other hand, who just finished his senior season at the University of California, was a picture of steely concentration during his three-man playoff for two spots with Schutte and McElyea after the trio finished at 5-under 138. Homa made a 12-footer for par on the first playoff hole after Schutte and McElyea made routine pars, and then Homa nearly chipped in from 60 feet on the second playoff hole to salvage another par. Schutte left his approach shot in the water and made bogey, while McElyea two-putted from about 12 feet for a par that clinched the final qualifying spot.

It’s been quite a week for Homa, who won the NCAA individual championship last week, then saw his Golden Bears eliminated in the semifinal round of team competition.

“I live next to Magic Mountain, and this is more of a rollercoaster than that,” he said. “I was at a high on Thursday; I’ve never been at such a high. Then probably the lowest of lows on Saturday. I lost on the second playoff hole, so this is a good redemption for me. It makes all that travel and all that heartbreak at least somewhat manageable.”

Homa said he had no idea when it will sink in that he’ll be playing at Merion – “Hopefully soon so I live it up for the next couple of weeks,” he said – and Alker said he is looking forward to the challenge, especially after what he’s heard about the storied layout.

“I’m not a long hitter, probably one of the shortest guys to be honest, a pretty solid iron player and I rely on pitching and putting,” said Alker. “I’ve heard it’s not the longest Open course, so maybe it might favor me a little bit.”

Just missing qualifying were Cole Ogden of West Point, Utah, and Sapp, both at 4 under, and Pedro Figueiredo of Los Angeles, Tom Johnson of Weaverville, Calif., and Aaron Goldberg of Huntington Beach, Calif., all of whom finished at 3 under. 

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