Surrey’s Kris Kim continued his sensational season when winning the R&A Boys’ Amateur Championship following a thrilling 38-hole final at Ganton Golf Club in Yorkshire.
After 36 holes couldn’t decide a winner, the 15-year-old from Walton Heath kept his cool to beat Alex Papayoanou of the USA on the second play-off hole in a nail-biting final.
It’s been a remarkable year for Kim, who won the Fairhaven Trophy in May before breaking the Golf Club of Geneva course record in Switzerland representing England in the European Team Championship, while he also won the McGregor Trophy in July, similarly through two play-off holes.
Kim began the week in fine form, producing five straight birdies from the seventh hole at Fulford Golf Club in the stroke play qualifying event to post an opening 68, and followed that up with a level-par 72 to finish seventh out of the 144 competitors and into Thursday’s match play stages.
The Walton Heath golfer beat Luca Memeo of Italy 3&2 in the opening knockout round, before seeing off Mads Viemose Larsen of Denmark 2&1 in the final 32. Erik Sabelstrom Holmberg was up next, but Kris was too good for the Swedish youngster, winning 3&2 to reach the quarter-finals. A convincing 4&3 win versus Spain’s Marcel Fonseca saw him through to the semis before a 2&1 win over France’s Hugo Le Goff secured his place in the final.
Kim took the early initiative in the final, winning the 2nd with a birdie three, but he slipped up with three bogeys in a row from the 4th and Papayoanou was able to move to two-up by the 6th. Kim won the 8th, but the 18-year-old from Houston produced an excellent eagle three at the 9th to restore his two-hole cushion. Kim bagged his second birdie of the round at the 11th to cut the deficit to one, but Papayoanou responded with a birdie three at the next to go back to two-up. Kim’s birdie three at the 14th took him back to one-down and when his opponent was unable to get up and down from a greenside bunker at the 18th the match was all square going into the afternoon.
Papayoanou won the 19th with a par four, but bogeys at the 21st and 22nd proved costly and gave Kim the initiative as he moved to one-up at the 22nd. The match settled into a pattern around the turn with Kim edging ahead and Papayoanou pegging him back.
The American won the 31st with a birdie four to level the match, but once again Kim moved ahead with a birdie three to win the 32nd. At the 35th, Papayoanou played a delightful chip from short of the green to secure his par which was enough to level the match when Kim could only three-putt from a similar position.
The match finished all square after 36 holes and went to the 38th, where the American looked to be in control when he chipped to three feet from the back of the green. Kim left his first putt from the front of the green 12 feet short and his attempt from there slipped past the hole. Papayoanou missed his putt for the Championship and then missed the return from three feet to leave Kim as the champion.
“It feels amazing to win,” said a relieved Kim. “There was never more than two holes in it – so it was really tight the whole way through. I just tried to keep the ball in play and limit my mistakes. I feel really bad for Alex. It was really unlucky at the end there. I’m excited for the future. This is just the best you can do as a junior golfer. I’m really happy with it.”