Date: July 25, 2019
Author: Mark Hayes

Grace under fire, no problems

You never know the direction from which your next challenge will come in match play golf.

But for Grace Kim, this one was next level odd.

The bubbly Sydneysider advanced to the round of 32 at the US Girls' Amateur in Wisconsin today, but not before a truly bizarre incident during her victory over American prodigy Alexa Pano.

Sadly from an Australian perspective, Kim was left to fly the flag alone after No.2 seed Maddison Hinson-Tolchard, of Perth, was one of many seeds who became casualties on day one of knockout match play at SentryWorld.

Hinson-Tolchard led her match against American Caroline Hodge on to the 18th tee.

But a day after her electrifying joint course-record 65, the Gosnells member took a bogey up the final regulation hole, then another on the 19th to fall at the round of 64 hurdle for the second successive year.

Kim, however, took her game up a notch after qualifying as the 15th seed.

The Avondale member admitted afterwards to a few nerves about playing Pano, the 14-year-old already a veteran of several LPGA Tour events including the 2019 US Women's Open.

But she needn't have feared.

Kim burst from the blocks with birdies on the first, second and fourth holes to race to a 3-up lead over the young Floridian.

And it was soon afterwards the match took an odd twist.

Pano's caddie, provided locally and not previously known to her, was given something of a warning by a walking official after some unusual behaviour, including towards Kim's looper.

And after one last oddity, Kim recalled, Pano sacked her caddie on the spot, taking her pin sheet, yardage book and bag into her own control and carrying her own sticks for the rest of the match.

"Alex was really nice about it, she came over and was really apologetic because it seemed like that her caddie had been trying to play mind games," Kim said.

"She just sacked him … it was really weird there for a while."

The drama, though, didn't affect Kim's game.

The Youth Olympics champion was four under par and 5-up by the time she made her first real mistake on the 12th, but didn't lose another hole en route to a relatively comfortable 4&3 win.

" I could have birdied the whole front nine," Kim enthused.

"Today a lot of putts dropped in (and compared to the qualifying stroke rounds) I could visualise putts a lot better."

Kim, fresh from her Karrie Webb scholarship experience in nearby Minnesota in June, will next play Taiwan's Chun-Wei Wu in the round of 32, from 11.21pm tonight (Sydney time).

"I'll just stay aggressive with my lines, especially with my putting … I like match play."