Ahead of his debut in this week’s Brabazon Trophy at Sunningdale, England Under-16 star Kris Kim has been unveiled as the first amateur to be sponsored by CJ Group, the Korean-based global company which hosts The CJ Cup on the PGA Tour since 2017.
The Walton Heath-based 15-year-old has made a dazzling start to the 2023 season, winning the Fairhaven Trophy by six shots in April and maintaining his unbeaten record in the England U16s with four points from four matches in the team’s 16-8 triumph at Hunstanton last week.
He now joins a world class stable of golfers that includes Sungjae Im, Si Woo Kim, KH Lee and Byeong Hun An on the PGA Tour, his signing inspired by the CJ ethos of ‘Talented young player, growing together becoming a global No.1’.
A company spokesman said of their new addition: “Since last year, when corporate entities could sponsor amateur players, CJ has been keeping a close interest on players from many countries. We have put so much effort into finding players with great potential and personality. We have high expectations for Kris and CJ will be a big supporter of him in achieving his goals.”
An excited Kim added: “I’m just really happy to be among so many great players and hopefully I can wear their brand with pride and keep playing well. Sungjae Im is probably my favourite player because of how calm he is all of the time.”
The Surrey youngster, who hailed his Fairhaven Trophy triumph as “my biggest win so far”, has an impressive pedigree in the sport. His mother, Ji-Hyun Suh, was one of the Korean pioneers who competed on the LPGA in the 1990s and inspired the wave of success that has been maintained ever since in both the men’s and women’s game.
Her son’s promise has also been identified by Mark Thistleton, Technician & Player Development Manager for TaylorMade on the DP World Tour.
“I have been closely following the progress Kris is making for the past 18 months and had the opportunity now to work with him on several occasions,” Thistleton said. “His ball striking and consistency is exceptional, as good as many of the players I work with week in week out on the DP World Tour.
“It’s also noticeable how Kris is always open to listening, learning and improving and how he manages his busy schedule with school to get the most out of himself in all areas. With this combination I feel he has the ingredients to become a top class golfer on the world stage.”
James Byers, CEO of Trinifold Sports added: “Kris leads by example through his golf performance and time management skills to maintain an A* education at Epsom College. Given the perfect platform of encouragement provided by his family, Kris has every chance to break through in the next few years. Bill Curbishley, myself and everyone connected to Trinifold Sports are delighted to be working with the CJ corporation to provide the very best of opportunities for Kris Kim.”
Kim’s progress in the sport has been developed with the assistance of the not-for-profit organisation Golfing4Life. “I really appreciate being part of a great team there and it gives me a lot of confidence,” he said ahead of this week’s first round on the New Course at Sunningdale where he had been learning from the example of his G4L team-mates, the brothers John and Conor Gough.
John has been in sensational form himself this year winning the Australian Masters of the Amateurs and the Irish Amateur Championship, to add to his Lytham Trophy and Spanish Amateur Championship victories last year. Meanwhile, Conor, who represented Great Britain and Ireland at the 2019 Walker Cup, is on the comeback trail from a back injury.
“It really helps to have them around,” Kim said. “Just knowing that I can follow in their footsteps by repeating the things that they’ve done to be successful.”
Kim will be guided this week by a local caddie. “I think it’s always better to have two minds rather than one and then he knows the course a lot better than me,” he explained.
The planning doesn’t stop as he seeks to earn top grades in his GCSEs off the course while racking up plenty of wins on it. “It was really tough at the start to manage golf and school work but my school has been really helpful in managing my schedule.”
And, if everything goes to plan, Kim knows exactly which tournament would make the ideal PGA Tour debut.
“Definitely the CJ Cup!” he laughed.