CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Bryan Kim won the U.S. Junior Amateur championship Sunday, winning the final two holes for a 2-up victory over Joshua Bai.
Kim led when the 36-hole final was suspended Saturday, fell behind when the players returned Sunday and then went back ahead for good by winning the 35th hole.
The victory earned the incoming Duke freshman, an 18-year-old from Brookeville, Maryland, an exemption into the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 next June.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Kim, who was playing in his third U.S. Junior Amateur but had not made match play in his previous two. “Especially coming into this week, I hadn’t made a cut at a USGA event, but to not only make the cut but win all six of my matches, especially against all these great competitors, it just means the world.”
After the start of the final round was suspended 3 1/2 hours by rain Saturday, Kim had a 1-up lead through 25 holes when play was suspended, forcing the final to be extended a day because of weather for the first time since 2002 at Atlanta Athletic Club.
The 17-year-old Bai quickly won Nos. 26 and 27 to take the lead when play resumed on the Daniel Island Club’s Ralston Creek Course.
The match was tied before Kim hit his approach on the 376-yard, par-4 35th hole to 7 feet. Bai missed a long birdie try before Kim made his putt for a 1-up lead.
Trying to square the match on the par-5 36th hole, Bai missed the green well right from 250 yards with his second shot and then chipped over the green before conceding Kim’s birdie.
“Bryan is not going to make anything less than a par,” Bai said. “He could even make birdie, so I thought I just had to give it a shot, try and get on the green, have a putt for eagle or get it close.”
Bai was attempting to become the fourth New Zealander to win a USGA championship, joining Michael Campbell, Danny Lee and Lydia Ko.
Both finalists already earned spots next month in the U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills in the Denver suburbs, while Kim also got a spot in the 2024 U.S. Amateur at Hazeltine in Minnesota.
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