Jul. 5—Entering into his first Golden Isles Invitational, former Clayton State golfer Joseph Kim wasn't happy with where his game was. After running away with the 71st edition of the prestigious amateur event, he's feeling a bit better about it.
KIm shot a 7-under 65 in the second round to take a two-stroke lead into the final 18 holes before going even lower — birdying five of his first seven holes Saturday en route to an 8-under 64 and an unexpected tournament championship.
"Actually, in the previous week, I was playing bad in some events," Kim said. "I just changed my strategy with my coach, and we just wanted to go center greens all day, all 54 holes. If I make a birdie, that's a reward.
"I was just going for pars all day and all week, and it just turned out to be a good week."
A Lakeside High School graduate, Kim played his college golf at Clayton State, where he earned All-Peach Belt Conference and PING All-American honors in the 2019-20 season. That year, Kim won the University of North Georgia Fall Invitational with a 15-under 201 — a Clayton State school record low 54-hole score.
His 70.88 stroke average was second-lowest in Peach Belt Conference history.
Although he was named the Clayton State Male Athlete of the Year this past season, Kim struggled to reproduce the same highs as the previous year, that is until he came down to the Golden Isles.
While he may have been just shooting for par, Kim wound up birdying 23 times over 54 holes and tying the Brunswick Country Club course record with a 19-under 197, which was originally set at the 2014 Golden Isles Invitational by medalist Dylan Freeman, who finished as runner-up in 2021 at 14-under 202.
Freeman shot an 8-under in the first round of the tournament to stake one former Coastal Georgia standout and past invitational champion to a two-stroke lead over another in Eli Scott.
Kim found himself down four strokes heading into the second round, but he caught fire with five birdies over the front nine and never looked back. Meanwhile, Freeman's 73 in Round 2 opened the door for the comeback.
For the stranglehold on the top spot Kim held throughout the final round, he teed off up just two strokes over Dalton Melnyk and former Mariner Chip Thompson.
"It was hard to sleep (Friday night)," Kim admitted. "I had so much anxiety coming up. I was just calling my coach and parents, and they helped a lot. They calmed me down, told a lot of good things to think about, and everything turned out pretty well."
By the time the grouping of Kim, Melnyk and Thompson had made the turn, Kim had extended his to five strokes over second place.
Freeman attempted to make one last push, birdying Nos. 11 and 14 while scoring an eagle on No. 12 for the second consecutive round, but it wasn't enough to catch the steady Kim, who became the fifth straight first-time champion at the Golden Isles Invitational.