KUALA LUMPUR: At just 18, South Korean golfer Kim Joo-hyung is having the time of his life.
He will be up against the big boys on the US PGA Tour, the pinnacle of professional golf, remarkably just two years after he turned pro.
Joo-hyung is set to make his third PGA Tour start at the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship in the Dominican Republic, which begins on Thursday (Sept 24).
He's certainly living his dream after making his Major debut at the US PGA Championship last month before earning another sponsor invite to feature in the Safeway Open last week.
He missed the PGA Championship cut at the TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, but made amends at the Safeway Open Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, by coming in tied-67th.
And on the eve of his third appearance in the United States, Joo-hyung spoke about his ambition to play full-time on the PGA Tour.
“I would obviously love to play (full-time) on the PGA Tour,” declared Joo-hyung, who's playing on sponsor's invite.
The Seoul-born lad had travelled to Southeast Asia to play on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) - the region's secondary circuit - to mark the start of his career in late 2018.
And it didn't take long for him to make an impact.
In fact, it was in Malaysia where Joo-hyung secured his breakthrough win in June last year.
He won the PGM ADT Tiara Melaka Championship and never looked back since.
Joo-hyung added one more ADT title in Indonesia two months later and on his third Asian Tour start, which he played on sponsor's invite, he made heads turn by capturing the Panasonic Open India.
The win secured him a two-year playing status on the Asian Tour.
Joo-hyung then built on the solid 2019 season further, starting off strongly by finishing fourth at the Singapore Open and New Zealand Open before the Asian Tour season was suspended indefinitely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fortunately, the Korean PGA Tour resumed in July and he made the most of it.
It took him just two starts to win his first KPGA Tour title, claiming the Gunsan CC Open which propelled him into world's top 100 and subsequently earned him a spot in the PGA Championship.
The Gunsan CC Open win also saw him created history as the second-youngest winner on the KPGA Tour.
Joo-hyung believes the experience he gained from his two starts in the United States gave him a better glimpse of the road ahead.
“It's been a journey and I'm just glad to be here and hopefully to play here full-time soon," he said.
"It's definitely different. The conditions, the greens, the fairways, the rough, it's all new.
"And the pin positions as well on the PGA TOUR are different from the tours that I play, so it's a big learning experience for me, a big step and it just shows how good these players are under these conditions.”
Joo-hyung is absorbing all he can during this exciting phase of his fledgeling career.
“To be honest, I follow all the guys on tour. That's why I watch a lot just because golf has always been in my blood," said Joo-hyung.
"I'm always trying to get better, so 90 per cent of it is golf. I watch all these guys play.
"I'm a bit of a golf nerd, so I know a lot about these players. I study a lot about them, I still do,” he said.
Like most aspiring golfers, Joo-hyung adores Tiger Woods.
“I've always been a huge fan of Tiger just because ever since I started golf, I think the first golf tournament I watched was Tiger winning the Masters, I think. And actually I saw him in Australia when I was like six," he recalled.
"He came to Australia at that time and I remember he was like a foot away from me and I was wearing his cap that was too big for me, but I wanted to wear it just because it was Tiger's cap. I was shouting "Go, Tiger" and got a tip of the cap. It was pretty fun.
“He's been so dominant all these years and it's pretty cool what he's done for the game and how he's impacted golf. So I've always looked up to him. And it's pretty cool that I met him in the PGA Championship and I was able to take a good souvenir picture with him. Yeah, he's always been a huge idol of mine.”
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