Queenstowner Sumin Kang, Otago’s top female golfer for about five years, is getting some major overseas opportunities this year, starting in Thailand this week.
The 18-year-old’s one of six Kiwis who teed off at the Siam Country Club course in Pattaya at the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) championship yesterday.
The winner earns starts in three majors and invites to two other elite tourneys.
Sumin, who missed selection last year, also played the WAAP champs in 2022 at the same venue, making the cut and finishing in the top 50.
Having finished at Wakatipu High last year, she’s hoping to play a few more tournaments when she returns, including in Australia, before travelling to the United States in August to take up a four-year golf scholarship with Northern Arizona University.
She says the uni gave her the best offer she got, ‘‘and the coach is very motivated for the team’’.
‘‘I already know a girl who’s going over there, so it’s not going to be too scary.’’
Local Millbrook-based coach Ben Gallie, who’s coached Sumin on and off for five years, says she’s developed a good golf-life balance over the past six months to a year, ‘‘and it’s really making her play better’’.
He notes she was top qualifier for the New Zealand Women’s Amateur Championship last year and only lost to the eventual winner.
He says it’s good Otago’s no.2, Yoonae Jeong, is also local, albeit a bit younger, so they can spur each other on — at last weekend’s Otago strokeplay, Sumin won and Yoonae was runner-up, seven shots back.
Sumin also gets to practise with her very promising younger brother, Ricky.
Gallie says her game’s in good nick overall.
‘‘Her wedge play’s really good, she drives it reasonably straight most of the time, and if she holes her putts she’s fairly unstoppable.’’
He also thinks college in the US will help because she’ll be part of a team — ‘‘I think that really helps motivation but also helps you play well’’.
If she maintains her love of the game, she could easily turn pro after that, he says.
Interestingly, she has some similarities with Kiwi super-star, Lydia Ko.
Both were brought up in South Korea before moving to NZ — Ko at the age of four and Sumin when she was 10.