Kim Kaufman (Clark, South Dakota) had one of those years that every athlete dreams about. She expected to play on the Epson Tour for the entire season and then capitalized on an opportunity and now ranks 56th on the LPGA Tour money list with over $225,000 earned.
While Kaufman was in Lubbock, Texas for a friends wedding, epsontour.com caught up with the two-time winner and current LPGA Tour rookie. Kaufman is currently fourth in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year rankings.
She also is 62nd on the Race to CME Globe and is in prime position to get into the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida. Kaufman will also play in the upcoming Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship and the MIZUNO CLASSIC.
Her story is a lesson in seizing an opportunity and not looking in the rear view mirror.
This is part one of a two-part question and answer piece with Kaufman.
Epsontour.com: How do you assess your rookie season on the LPGA Tour?
Kim Kaufman: It has been crazy. I started on Epson (Tour) and then got reshuffled up and then played in a couple major championships and my goal was get into the Asia events. I feel like I have achieved everything I wanted to for my first year. I had some top 10 finishes and I had some really good play. I think this sets me up for next year and for my career as a whole.
It has been a whirlwind. I was just in Korea and I am going back to Taiwan. It is crazy to think I was playing in Sarasota in March on the Epson Tour. It goes to show you that a lot can happen in a few months.
Epsontour.com: At the start of the 2014 season, could you envision this type of success?
Kim: No, I really thought I was going to play on the Epson Tour for the full year. Even though I had conditional (LPGA) status, my mindset was to focus on the Epson Tour and not play in a few events on the LPGA. Thankfully, my agent told me I have to go to Dallas and play in one more event before the reshuffle and that was the key to my whole year. I thank him a lot for urging me to go and play Dallas (Kaufman finished T4 at the North Texas LPGA Shootout). I was just thinking about playing the Epson Tour and hopefully getting in the top 10 (on the Volvik Race for the Card money list) to play on the LPGA Tour in 2015. One week really changed my whole life.
Epsontour.com: Was there a moment when you realized that you had arrived?
Kim: I think when I played in the RICOH Women’s British Open. It was my first major and it was my first time in England. The feeling over there is amazing with so much history and tradition. When they announced my name on the first tee in that accent I was like ‘wow, I’m here’. Now, towards the end of the year, I get to go to Asia and I’m in the field for the CME (Globe Tour Championship) event so that means I had a good year. I still look back and think I can’t believe I am playing on the LPGA Tour in October.
Epsontour.com: What are the challenges of being a first year player on the LPGA Tour?
Kim: I had challenges right away. I was on cloud nine after my Dallas finish and then I miss four out of the next five cuts. I saw how easily you can go into a downward spiral out here. You can’t shoot a 74 and 73 and make the cut. It is just so much tighter and better. You can be playing decent golf and not make cuts and you still have caddie fees and your expenses. I saw how easily things can become completely out of control because you can’t get it back on track. You just really have to learn to be positive and be your own best friend. Nobody cares if you miss a certain amount of cuts in a row, no one is going to feel sorry for you. It was a little bit of a reality check. You’re in the big leagues now and it is tough. If you can get through that and learn from your mistakes, you’re totally on your way. If you play well, the reward is just so much greater.
Epsontour.com: Have you gone to anyone on Tour for help this year?
Kim: They put us in PODS with one veteran and four rookies and I had a really good player in Kris Tamulis. She was super nice to me. I also have a really good caddie, Mallory Blackwelder’s dad (Worth). He has been out here for 27 years and that helps because he was able to introduce me to all the right people and the players that would be nice to lean on. He just knew so much and he is kind of the guy that has shown me the ropes.
Epsontour.com: What has been your favorite pairing so far?
Kim: In the third round of the Dallas event I was paired with Suzann (Pettersen) and I was honestly pretty nervous. I played well and she was really nice to me so I think I will always remember that. Last week in Korea, I was paired with Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu, who are Korean superstars. It was pretty cool to play in that group in their country. You get to play with these girls that you were watching on television last year.