As Michael Kim stood on the 15th green at the U.S. Open on Saturday, the Cal men’s golfer glanced up at the leaderboard and smiled.
The 19-year-old rising junior wasn’t looking to see where his four birdies in the past six holes put him up on the board. He wasn’t grinning because he was tied at third place among a 156-player field and had a legitimate chance at contention.
“I kept looking at the leaderboard — not because I wanted to know how I was doing in the tournament, but it was so cool to see my name next to those names, like Mickelson, Donald, Schwartzel,” Kim said in a post-round interview with Bob Costas. “It was just an incredible feeling.”
The humble amateur golfer completed an impressive run at the 2013 U.S. Open this past weekend at the Merion Golf Club near Ardmore, Pa. Kim finished the tournament at No. 17 and as the low amateur after reaching as high as third place on the overall leaderboard on Saturday.
After a respectable first two days of the major tournament, Kim made the cut tied for No. 8 on the scoreboard, while Cal teammate Michael Weaver barely passed the cut line at eight over to enter the third round.
While Weaver struggled with several bogeys on Saturday, Kim peaked in his third round, shooting one bogey but later consistently hitting par.
After the ninth hole, Kim shot four birdies in a six-hole stretch to take him to even par in the overall tournament. Just one shot back of the lead, Kim was momentarily near the top of the U.S. Open leaderboard.
But his position atop the board was short-lived — the Southern California native snap-hooked his tee shot on No. 16 to the left, finding the rough and making a bogey. Kim then accumulated a double bogey on the 17th hole and another bogey on the last hole to end the third round.
Kim slipped from third place to 10th place to complete the third day, shooting one over to sit at five shots behind leading pro Phil Mickelson.
“I didn’t feel that nervous, but I think I was, looking back on it,” Kim said. “I kind of went through that what-if situation in my head. What if I won, or what if I did this. I tried to snap back out of it, but I hit an awful tee shot on the next hole.”
On the last day, although Kim managed to post two birdies, he struggled with his tee shots and hit several in the rough to garner four bogeys and two double bogeys throughout round four. But the rising Cal junior is ultimately proud of his overall No. 17 performance at the major tournament — the third-best finish by an amateur in the last 30 years.
“I had a difficult ending, but the overall week, it’s just been an unbelievable experience,” Kim said. “I think I gained a lot of confidence from that. I met a ton of great players out here, and (I’m) just looking forward to what my future holds. It’s just an experience I’ll never forget.”
Contact Janice Chua at [email protected].