Lauren Kim’s first golf clubs were a plastic set her parents bought her as a toddler.
When she fired a hard shot into their new TV, her parents knew it was time to take her to the family driving range.
“I fell in love with the game,” said Kim, whose parents own the Peace Arch Driving Range in south Surrey, B.C. Passed down from her grandparents, it’s been in the family for more than 30 years.
The 17-year-old Kim is dominating the women’s golf at the Canada Summer Games, shooting a 67 to shatter the single-round Games record in Wednesday’s opening round at Legends on the Niagara Battlefield Course in Niagara Falls, Ont. She followed it up with a 68 on Thursday.
At 9-under 135, she takes a five-stroke lead over B.C. teammate Tina Jiang into the third round.
Kim, who’s committed to the University of Texas for 2023, seemingly couldn’t miss in Round 1, firing eight birdies.
“I’d definitely say my putting was really strong, I only had 25 putts, and my approach game was also very strong,” she said. “I put shots close to the holes so that made it easier to make those putts and all those birdies.”
Kim had four birdies in a bogey-free round on Thursday.
“Today, it wasn’t horrible, I didn’t have too many mistakes,” she said. “The scorecard, it was pretty even today. I just couldn’t drop any putts earlier until I think my 12th or 13 hole, I made a 30-footer, and that’s what really set me off, and then I made a couple more after that.
“I think my putting has really kept me in the game.”
Despite her substantial lead, Kim isn’t getting ahead of herself.
“I usually don’t think of it like I’m in the lead, I’d better do something, I always just take it shot by shot and just really try to stay in the moment, and keep my body and mind in the present,” she said.
Kim, who started competing in golf at age 10, making it to the regional finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt competition at that age, played in her first U.S. Women’s Open in June.
While the depth of field at the Canada Games doesn’t compare to that tournament, where she missed cut, Kim said the Games’ multi-sport experience ranks at the top of her list.
“Being around all these players for different sports, being surrounded by them, it’s a really great environment,” she said. “It’s really cool, I get to see other athletes, it’s not just golf players.”
The single-round Games record fell on the men’s side on Thursday. Logan Graf of Sylvan Lake, Alta., shot a 65 to climb eight spots up the leaderboard. He’s in a two-way tie for third.
Quebec’s Guillaume Paquette leads at 6-under par, followed by Ryan Holwell of Newfoundland and Labrador. The 18-year-old Graf, who fired eight birdies, is tied with Cooper Humphreys at 4-under.
“It was a big flip from (Wednesday), the short game was the big difference,” Graf said of his improvement from the first round. “So, it’s good to turn that around.”
Graf was five shots back after his opening-round 75, but didn’t let a disappointing day quell his optimism.
“I know it’s a four-day tournament, and it always just changes a lot for the tournament,” he said. “It’s a lot of golf. So I was just waiting for a round like today really to come around, and I knew four days a long time to let the good golf happen, so I was pretty optimistic after (Wednesday).”
Leonie Tavares, a 12-year-old from Quebec, is the youngest golfer in the field. She shot a 1-under 71 on Thursday and is alone in sixth place, and just two shots from being in the top three.
—Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press