Kris Kim held his nerve to lift the 2023 McGregor Trophy following a nail-biting victory over Cameron Mukherjee on the second play-off hole at Hunstanton Golf Club.The 15-year-old produced a performance of a lifetime on Thursday to claim one of the biggest wins of his golfing career to date which capped off a fantastic week for the England international.
Fresh from a course record at the European Boys’ Team Championship last week and a bronze medal in the same event, the Walton Heath golfer came to Hunstanton as one of the pre-tournament favourites given his current form. But, after starting the day on one-over par following a topsy-turvy second round on Wednesday, nobody would have predicted Kim’s name to be at the top of the sheet come the end of round three.
An exceptional eight-under par round of 64, Kim’s lowest-ever score in a competition, catapulted him up the leaderboard and into first place, one-shot clear of overnight leader Ben Bolton who had shot a level par round of 72 to remain on six-under par.
A bogey-free final round of 67 which included an impressive chip-in for birdie on 11, was added to his previous scores of 64, 76 and 69 to give Kim a final total of 276 (-12). Playing in one of the earlier groups, it meant the 15-year-old faced an anxious wait in the clubhouse to see if his score would be beaten by the remaining players out on the course.
At this point, Mukherjee had just started his charge through the field. Five birdies on the front-nine brought the Gullane golfer right into contention alongside Bolton who was also performing well. Through 15, Mukherjee was still picking up shots and had moved to -11 by the time he reached 17. An unfortunate double bogey followed which set him back again, but on 18, the 15-year-old produced one of the most magnificent shots ever seen in the McGregor Trophy.
After driving the fairway, the England international reached for his nine-iron and pitched onto the green from 144 yards. The ball bounced just short of the hole, hit the flagstick twice before dunking in for an eagle, sparking wild celebrations among the player and the spectators watching on in disbelief as he managed to force a play-off. With nothing to separate the pair after 72 holes of stroke play, they were heading back down the first in a sudden death play-off.
Both players recovered well from finding the bunker to make par as the first play-off hole was halved. Next, it was back to 18, the scene of Mukherjee’s miraculous shot just moments before. However, the Gullane golfer couldn’t repeat his previous success when his tee shot found the rough down the left. Kim, meanwhile, found the fairway perfectly and chipped onto the green in two. Mukherjee’s second shot also found the green, but his first putt was left short of the hole and gave Kim a chance to seal victory. The Walton Heath golfer held his nerve perfectly and putted calmly for a birdie to win the 2023 McGregor Trophy.
Speaking after the presentation, Kim said: “It means everything. It’s my last time playing in this event, so it’s really special to have won it. Every shot went where I wanted it to go, so it couldn’t have been a better day for me!”
When reliving the drama of the play-off, Kim added: “The first hole was a bit shaky after hitting the three-wood in the bunker, but I wedged out well and hit it on the green to give myself a chance and then luckily, I holed the putt."
There was a special moment for Wallasey’s Spencer Davies on Thursday as he aced the par-three 7th measuring 167 yards during his third round to achieve his first ever hole-in-one. Davies ended the day on four-under par and in a tie for fifth alongside Alex Boyes (Teesside) and James Brash (Burhill).
Overall, 31 players shot sub-par rounds on Thursday, including Spain’s Juan Mivo Asovey who matched Kim’s eight-under par round of 64 in the afternoon. The 2024 McGregor Trophy will take place at West Essex Golf Club.