LPGA Profile: U-M freshman Ashley Kim takes a tour with the best players in the world

College is about preparing young people for their future and internships are a big part of introducing these students to what life is like in the workplace. University of Michigan student Ashley Kim has had an eye-opening “internship” this week at Travis Pointe Country Club in what many figure to be preparation for her life as a professional golfer.

Kim, a member of the University of Michigan women’s golf team and the Southern California PGA College Showcase Champion in 2016, is one of three players to obtain an exemption to play in the 72-hole LPGA Volvik Championship at Travis Pointe Country Club this week.

And while her scorecard after Thursday’s first round wasn’t up to par – it was actually seven over par – the experience far outweighs the scores on the golf course.

Ashley Kim (right) had her sister, Megan, on the bag with her on Thursday.

“I didn’t think I would be too nervous but once I got to that first tee all the nerves seemed to hit me,” said Kim, a freshman from Redondo Beach, Calif. “It was a lot of fun playing even though I obviously didn’t play my best.”

Kim started on the back nine and bogeyed the tenth hole and then double bogeyed the par-4 11th hole as the nerves were obviously in full swing at the start of her first time playing with the best players in the world.

But she settled down and that natural ability took over as she parred the next 10 holes. She would bogey three, double bogey five and bogey seven before paring her final two holes of the day.

“As soon as I hit my first drive in the fairway I was able to catch my breath and feel more comfortable,” she said. “I didn’t have any birdies which is unfortunate but I can’t wait to get back out here tomorrow and try to shoot a better score.”

Kim had an impressive freshman season for the Wolverines. She tied the second lowest round in U-M program history with a 66 (-6) in the second round of the Ruth’s Chris Invitational in October. She joined her sister, Megan, as the only two Wolverines to score a 66 in a U-M varsity event and they are the only Wolverine siblings to gain exemptions on the LPGA Tour.

Kim is used to playing in pressure-packed moments out on the golf course. But nothing like what she experienced on Thursday.

“This is obviously at the top,” she said of playing an LPGA Tour event. “There has been nothing like playing with all these pros. Knowing that there are professional players behind me and in front of me was certainly a different experience. I just tried to play my game. I got a little frustrated at times with how I was playing but just getting this experience is a great opportunity.”

She also got to share that great experience with her sister Megan, who played four years for the Wolverines and was three-time Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) All-American Scholar. Megan, who earned an exemption to play in the LPGA event in Grand Rapids in 2017, was on the bag for her kid sister on Thursday.

“It was great having her out here,” Ashley said. “She really helped keep me calm and helped me laugh at times and it was great to share this with her.”

Kim also had a very interested and supportive spectator on the outside of the ropes offering encouragement throughout the day in Michigan women’s head coach Jan Dowling.

“It was very special,” said Dowling. “The experience she is gaining just being a part of this for the whole week is tremendous. Not only the competition part but also the practicing and preparation leading up to it. She gets to see how the best players in the world prepare, how they practice, what they work on during practice rounds and the type of shots they are hitting. You can’t put a price tag on this experience.”

Dowling was quite pleased with Kim’s performance on the Wolverines during her “rookie” year.

“She did really well,” Dowling said. “She had a number of big moments and highlights and led our team several times which is very impressive as a freshman.

“I know she’s not happy with her round today but she’s a great player and a great competitor and she will certainly use this experience to her advantage. It’s just going to make her a better player.”

And if she continues to get better she could turn this “internship” into a full-time job on the LPGA Tour.