Korean wonder kid Joohyung Kim has revealed some of the keys to his early success prior to his regular PGA TOUR debut in this week’s Safeway Open – the opening event of the 2020/2021 season on the PGA TOUR.
And his father Changik Kim – a former Tour professional who played on the Buy.com Tour (now known as the Korn Ferry Tour) in the United States before becoming a teaching professional – has most definitely been the guiding force behind his meteoric rise.
“My dad didn’t teach me the basics first,” said the 18-year-old Kim.
“He made sure I just had fun. We always went to the golf club to eat, drive the cart and hit some putts. But as I started to take it really serious he always taught me to practice hard, swing mechanic wise.”
They were living in Australia when he first picked up a golf club aged five, or as he says: “a short baby club”. But it wasn’t until they moved to the Philippines, when he was aged 11, that he really started to take the game seriously.
“Basically, my parents taught me was always to practice hard and be humble. And I feel like that was the most important lesson of all. And always will be,” added the Korean.
Kim cleaned up on the amateur circuit in the Philippines – he won the 2017 Philippine Junior and the 2018 Philippine Amateur – before turning professional in 2018.
And since then he has established himself as one of the most exiting young players in the region with huge potential to be one of the dominant players in the game.
After earning a battlefield promotion from the Asian Development Tour by winning three events last season, the youngster made an instant impact by winning in just his third start on the Asian Tour at the Panasonic Open India last November.
That made him the second youngest professional to win on the Asian Tour at 17 years and 149 days with countryman Seungyul Noh being the youngest when he won the 2008 Midea China Classic at the age of 17 years and 143 days.
Kim says his father, who is now 50 years old, is always on hand to offer advice.
“I ask him some stuff with golf because he is always with me and he knew my game ever since the beginning. So I feel like I can always go up to him and ask.
“My dad never plays. Doesn’t really have the time because he is always with me. But hopefully we can get a round one day. It would be fun to bring back the old memories. But he sometimes hits some chips and some putts, even hits one or two balls but nothing serious really.”
Kim also won on the Korean PGA Tour in July at the KPGA Gunsan Country Club Open – which was his first win on home soil and saw him become the youngest winner on that circuit at the age of 18.
It moved him inside top-100 on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) and earned him a place in last month’s US PGA Championship – where he made his Major debut.
Despite his incredible success as a teenager, he is quick to downplay his achievements.
“I don’t think I have success at my age to be honest. I feel like I need to be better and I still lack so much,” he says.
“I’m fortunate to have some success yes, to break into the top 100 in the world, win once on the Asian Tour but I still have so many goals and feel like I need to accomplish so much more.
So I don’t think I have success yet. And have so much to learn. I know I can play against the best.”
He adds: “I feel like it’s just really little by little that I need to sharpen. I’ve played against the top players in the world, so I know I deserve to be here. But I just need to be more consistent overall to get me to the top and get all aspects better.”
Travelling the world as a Tour professional will certainly not bother him after a globetrotting childhood.
He was born on the Jeju island in Korea, where they stayed for a few months. They lived in China for a few years, then Australia for seven years, followed by the Philippines for six years and Thailand for a year and a half.
“And now for the first time in my life Korea,” says Kim.
On his game plan for this week’s Safeway Open, Kim says: “This time not really focused on something. More of just feeling free. And one step at a time. And play my own game. If I can do that the rest will follow.”