The links link them
Kim and Wilson will forever be connected by a great day for Hawaii golf
KIMBERLY KIM is Michelle Wie without the sponsorships and the entourage and the cameras clicking around her constantly.
Her game isn't quite at Wie's level ... not yet, anyway. But -- and you knew this was coming -- Kim knows how to win. (I think Wie does too ... she just hasn't done it in a while.)
Anyway, Kim has learned a lot this summer about battling back. Yesterday she climbed from 5 down to win a match-play tournament that (probably fortunately for her) she didn't know was "big."
Someday, Sony and the rest might come after her, too. Kim is charismatic and colorful, funny and unpretentious. And -- as she proved yesterday at the U.S. Women's Amateur and earlier this summer at the Publinx match play and the U.S. Women's Open -- she is a prodigal golf talent at age 14. It's not completely refined, but it's there.
A 14-year-old kid from Pahoa who hasn't been coached on the finer points of public relations will give you the blunt truth, and that is refreshing. For example, somebody older saying the following would instantly be labeled arrogant or an idiot. From Kim, it's humorous and honest:
"I don't watch the Golf Channel unless I'm on it."
That was between giggles and slurps from a Big Gulp, during a phone interview in which she also said she prefers MTV, VH1 and HBO. I resisted asking if she sneaks over to the Disney Channel to watch Kim Possible.
This is a kid who's favorite thing about the U.S. Women's Open was the free ice cream. Maybe it was her motivation to make the cut.
For all her appropriate childishness, Kim can be a killer on the course. When her caddie explained his philosophy of smashmouth golf, Kim knew exactly what to do. Start going for pins. Put the pressure on the opponent while taking it off of herself.
"I got to a point where I decided I wanted to win," she said. "Before, if I fell behind, I would, like, just give up."
For his victory yesterday in The International, Dean Wilson pocketed $990,000 and earned a spot in January's winners-only Mercedes Championships on Maui.
DEAN WILSON also scraped from the pack (tied for seventh to start the final round) and got into a one-on-one situation yesterday. And he did what Kim did. He put the heat on his opponent, Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman. Wilson birdied the second playoff hole at The International yesterday to earn his long-awaited first victory as a PGA Tour pro.
After Lehman left himself with a long putt for birdie with his second shot, Wilson (who had driven 5 yards past Lehman) placed his 8-iron approach to within 6 feet of the hole. Lehman -- knowing lagging wasn't an option against Wilson -- made a good effort from 27 feet, but his try curled to the right. Then Wilson made the biggest putt of his life look like a tap-in, and he became the first golfer from Hawaii to win a mainland PGA Tour event.
Wilson went to BYU, and his offseason home is in Las Vegas.
But if you want to question his local-guy status, read this:
"Growing up in Hawaii, there's like an internal battle that you have with trying to compete with everyone on the mainland," Wilson said. "It seems like I heard a lot of people saying it can't be done, you can't beat those guys, they're so good. It's just really satisfying to be here today holding the trophy."
The Castle High School graduate echoed the way a lot of folks from the islands feel about a lot of things with those words. It's not a bitterness issue as much as it is about just not knowing unless you go out there and find out. That's what Wilson did, playing in Australia, Canada, Asia and on the Nationwide Tour before earning his Tour card four years ago.
Kimberly Kim received a hug from her father, Young Soo Kim, after winning the 106th U.S. Women's Amateur title.
AFTER FOLLOWING Wilson for a round at the John Deere Classic last month, I decided to interview him exclusively about his game, without any questions about Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie. What was there left to ask him about them anyway?
Wilson played with Sorenstam at the Colonial in 2003, and was lauded for his gracious support of her. He also gets asked about Wie a lot, simply because they are both from Hawaii. And two years ago, Wilson almost didn't get into the Sony Open because Wie had a sponsor's exemption.
Like most others, he is in awe of Wie's talent, and he enjoyed playing with Sorenstam. But now he can be known as Dean Wilson, PGA Tour winner instead of Dean Wilson, Annika Sorenstam playing partner.
"That was always a positive for me, playing with her, and that was a great experience. But that's what I kept telling myself, is dangit, I've got to win a tournament so I can be known for something else," he said.
Of what was his mother most proud? The way he handled the Sorenstam situation, or yesterday's victory?
"Both," Grace Wilson said. "I was at the Colonial, and it was so exciting. But this, this today is something else. He's waited so long."
Today, Wilson again shares the spotlight with yet another female golfer. And he's proud. He's never made any noise about it, but for years Wilson has made sizable donations to the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association as well as the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, supporting young golfers from his home state like Kim.
Now they are linked forever, the 36-year-old veteran from Kaneohe and the 14-year-old kid from the Big Island breaking through as winners on the same day.
"I know (the names of) about eight golfers. Tiger, Annika, Pat Hurst, Christina Kim," Kimberly Kim said. "Today I learned who Dean Wilson is. I heard he won."
Kimberly Kim blasted out of a greenside bunker on the 13th hole during yesterday's 36-hole final.
is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter who covers University of Hawaii football and other topics. His column appears periodically.
Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org