Roared on by a huge gallery, Bio Kim from Korea finally added another important trophy to his impressive collection of titles when he claimed the 41st GS Caltex Maekyung Open at Namseoul Country Club for the first of what could be many Asian Tour victories.
The hot favourite coming into the week thanks to a purple patch that stretches back to the end of last year, he carded a battling final round one-over-par 72 to win on nine-under by two from Korean Mingyu Cho, who shot a 70 – on a day when organisers estimated 8,000 fans attended.
Korean Kyongjun Moon, winner of this event in 2015, finished third after shooting a 67.
Last season’s Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Joohyung Kim from Korea, closed with a 70 to end in joint fifth place.
It is the second time Bio Kim has won the tournament – which is one of the jewels in the crown of tournament golf in Korea, along with the Korea Open – although when he triumphed in 2012, it was not part of the Asian Tour.
The Korean star, who led the event since round two, started the day with a four-shot lead and had to overcome an early challenge on the front nine by playing-partner Cho.
Cho joined Bio Kim tied for the lead on nine under after seven holes after he birdied 4, 6 and 7, while Bio made bogey on 6. But Cho bogeyed hole 8 to slip one back before Bio reached the par-five 9th in two fine shots and birdied the hole to move two ahead of Cho.
Cho’s chances were then shot to pieces when Korean Golf Officials gave him a two-stroke penalty on the 9th for standing on the hole’s second green when playing his third. He was informed he should have taken a drop.
It meant Bio was able to cruise home unchallenged on the back nine and enjoy one of the finest most of his career; although there was a minor scare on the last when he sliced his tee shot into the trees before he got his ball back in play and made bogey.
Cho partly made up for the disappointment of his rules infringement by holing a 25-footer for birdie on 18 to finish solo second; his two shot penalty the only difference between him and Bio Kim.
“Today was very tough, I lost my concentration a few times, but I am happy to make it through,” said 31-year-old Kim.
“It took all of me to win today. Namseoul Country Club is very difficult, and a lot of good players were chasing me. As I have been doing all week, and all year, I tried to stay in the present, clear my mind and not to think about things too much, like my four-shot lead on the back nine.”
He earned a cheque for US$255,536 and moved into second place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit with winnings of US$402, 986. American Sihwan Kim remains in top spot, despite missing the cut.
“Today was very tough, I lost my concentration a few times, but I am happy to make it through. It took all of me to win today." - Bio Kim.
Added Bio Kim: “It is Children and Parents' Day which means the win has special meaning. I have a lot to thank my parents for. If my parents didn't raise me well, I wouldn't be here. I'm trying to be a great son and a head of the family.”
Bio Kim’s victory once again reflected his affinity for Namseoul – which began when he tied for fourth in the event in 2007 before claiming equal third the following year, remarkably on both occasions he was still an amateur. He has also posted five other top-five finishes in addition to his success a decade ago and becomes the sixth dual winner of the event; no player has won it three times.
A professional since 2009 he only became a member of the Asian Tour after graduating from the Qualifying School in 2020, where he tied fifth, just before the pandemic hit.
And his performances since the Asian Tour’s restart at the end of last year have been the talk of the Tour. Since last November he has posted seven top-10s in nine events, including five top-five results. Tied second place at the Laguna Phuket Championship in 2021 had been his best finish before today’s breakthrough.
He played on the PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour early on his career before concentrating on competing in Korea – where he has been victorious on seven occasions, including this week.
His success today is a defining moment for a golfer who has made headlines throughout his career – including at the beginning when, remarkably, he claimed the Korea and Japan open amateur titles in 2008 and made it through the PGA Tour Qualifying School in 2010 aged just 20.
Said Joohyung Kim: “I had a lot of unlucky breaks. I really wanted to win, it’s one of the big events in Korea and it was my first event back here since last year. But I still finished inside the top-five, it was a great week, and I gave it my all, but it just wasn't enough.”
Won Joon Lee was the only Aussie to make the weekend, the Korean based played finishing in a share of 50th at seven-over-par.