Joohyung Kim with the International Team flag and Presidents Cup. Photo: PGA Tour
Chuah Choo Chiang
Chuah Choo Chiang

Tom Kim poised to go places with Presidents Cup the next stop after living his PGA Tour dream

  • The highly talented South Korean 20-year-old with an easy demeanour and carefree approach has taken the world of golf by storm
  • After becoming second youngest winner on Tour, Kim is hoping to ‘bring that young energy’ for International Team at Quail Hollow Club

The Tom Kim express finally ran out of steam after a whirlwind joyride which lasted nearly two months and ended at his dream destination – the PGA Tour.

But for the 20-year-old South Korean phenom, this is just the beginning of an exciting journey ahead, with the Presidents Cup being his next port of calling.

Born in June 2002 as Joohyung Kim, the highly talented youngster with an easy demeanour and carefree approach has taken the world of golf by storm after first leaving his mark by winning multiple times in Korea and across Asia in countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

It somewhat mirrored his adolescence – his family moved around and lived in Australia, China, the Philippines and Thailand, as his father, Chang-ik Kim, was a professional golfer before becoming a coach.

Kim is among the rare few Koreans who hold an English name, which he picked up at a young age after watching Thomas the Tank Engine, a television show based on a British children’s book series. He loved Toy Story too, especially the character Buzz Lightyear – but somehow, Buzz Kim didn’t sound as quite as good as Tom Kim.

Joohyung Kim of South Korea plays his shot from the seventh tee during the final round of the FedEx St Jude Championship at TPC Southwind on August 14, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo: Getty Images

“It’s just me being stubborn. Like, you’re supposed to let your parents name you and I was like nope, I’m going to name myself Thomas. I loved the show as a kid. Apparently, I really loved the train,” Kim said.

“I was like, you know what, I’m going to name myself Thomas. And as the years went on, people started calling me Tom. It was shorter, so I kind of went with Tom after that.”

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With his precocious talent, Kim started making his own buzz on the global stage by finishing third in the Genesis Scottish Open in July, a co-sanctioned PGA Tour and DP World Tour tournament.

Finishing tied for 47th place at the following week’s Open Championship at St Andrews to add to earlier top-25 finishes at the AT&T Byron Nelson and US Open, he earned Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour.

Three tournaments later, he rolled on and made golf history by becoming the second youngest winner on the PGA Tour since World War II following his victory at the Wyndham Championship.

Kim ironically opened with a quadruple bogey in the first round and closed with a stunning 61 for a five-stroke triumph, to earn instant fame and Tour membership. He qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs but missed out on the Tour Championship after running out of gas from a seven-week stretch of tournament play.

Joohyung Kim holds his trophy after winning the Wyndham Championship. Photo: USA TODAY Sports

“It has always been a dream of mine to play the PGA Tour,” said Kim, who is now ranked 20th in the world. “At the start of July, I was planning on trying to get my card through the Korn Ferry [Tour] Finals and now one month later, I’m a PGA Tour winner, so it’s pretty crazy.

“When I was younger, I would see Tiger [Woods] win on the PGA Tour, not somewhere else, so for me that was always the goal. Hopefully I’ll be here for a very long time.”

Kim’s father, who had a brief stint on the Korn Ferry Tour, put a club in his hands when he was five and his growth spurt was meteoric. He won amateur tournaments while in the Philippines, where after turning professional in 2018 he triumphed twice before racking up seven other victories across the region.

“I spent a lot more time with golf than I did in any other sport because it was in the family a little bit more and we would spend time on the golf course,” Kim said. “Just things like that where it kind of made the path more clear to be a golfer. I definitely don’t regret it because how many people are able to play the PGA Tour at age 20?”

Joohyung Kim and JT Poston of the United States on the third tee during the first round of the BMW Championship. Photo: AFP

Spanish star Jon Rahm, who played with Kim earlier in the month, had a word of advice for the young Korean, who averages 301 yards off the tee which ranks him at around 80th position on Tour in driving distance.

“To an extent, tee to green, he’s just repetitive, the same thing all the time. One here on the fairway, one on the green. He’s super accurate and a good putter,” said world No 6 Rahm.

“If I have one piece of advice for him, in this day and age, he’s going to have to pick up a little bit of ball speed. That low 60s is going to be hard to contend in some bigger golf courses, so if he can keep that accuracy and just get a little bit of distance, he could be someone who can contend anywhere. Not that he can’t, but nowadays, distance is really, really necessary.”

Kim’s quick rise has earned him automatic qualification into the International Team where he will be the second youngest player after Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa to feature in the Presidents Cup, which takes place at Quail Hollow, Charlotte from September 22 to 25.

Joohyung Kim reacts after winning the Wyndham Championship. Photo: USA TODAY Sports

International Team captain Trevor Immelman first heard of Kim earlier in the year when well-known instructor Claude Harmon III texted and suggested he keep an eye on him. The South African made it a point to watch Kim up close during a practice round at The Open and liked what he saw.

“He [Harmon] had been out with one of his players who played a round with Tom. And Claude immediately texted me and was like, you’ve got to check this kid out. He’s unbelievable,” Immelman said. “I can’t wait for him to bring his youthful energy to Quail Hollow Club.”

Kim’s wild ride in 2022 will see him face a power-packed US Team led by world No 1 Scottie Scheffler, 2021 FedExCup champion Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, and Justin Thomas, and he cannot wait to represent his country and the International Team.

Joohyung Kim plays a shot from a bunker on the 17th hole during the third round of the BMW Championship at Wilmington Country Club. Photo: AP

“It’s crazy. I can’t really believe I’ll be able to play in the Presidents Cup,” he said. “It’s something I’ve watched all the time, so it’s going to be exciting, and hopefully I can make a good contribution.

“I’m a lot younger than all the guys on the team, so hopefully I can bring that young energy and just be a kid out there and have all the fun we have. As long as we come together as a team, we’re going to have a chance. Just be a good energy out there for the team.”

Chuah Choo Chiang is senior director, marketing and communications – APAC, for the PGA Tour and is based in Kuala Lumpur.