CLIFTON N.J. — This is a week Gina Kim will certainly never forget.
Last week, Kim, a former star at Duke, played a U.S. Women's Open qualifier in Southern Pines, North Carolina — where she lost in a 4-for-2 playoff and is the second alternate from that location — and then rushed to her college graduation.
Now, shortly after, the LPGA rookie has made her first LPGA cut as a professional (T-12 as an amateur at the 2019 U.S. Women's Open) in her fourth start this year — the Cognizant Founders Cup — despite being one of the last people to make it in the field.
"It's been a busy week, but it's been filled with a lot of positive expenses," Kim, who finished her round T-7 at 7 under, said Friday at Upper Montclair Country Club. "I'm just grateful for being where I'm at right now."
Kim, however, could be elsewhere. She forewent the spring season of her senior year at Duke to turn professional. The Blue Devils missed the NCAA tournament, and maybe things would have been different if Kim, who led Duke to a national championship in 2019, finished her collegiate playing career.
"I definitely thought about (still playing in school)," she said. "I've been keeping up with the scores. It was tough to watch. They all have great skill and talent. I'm not sure how much my absence made an effect on the team since I'm not there, but it definitely hurt to watch.
"It definitely feels bittersweet. It feels weird a bit just knowing that my team is playing somewhere else, and I'm kind of on my own journey right now."
Kim's new expedition got off to a shaky start. All of the off-course responsibilities that come with being on tour, such as booking flights and hotels, caused a lot of stress. But now she says she's found her rhythm, and it's showing on the course.
Kim added that she still doesn't have everything 100% figured out. When she missed three straight cuts to start her professional career, one of her psychology professors gave her pointers on how to compartmentalize her mindset on the course. That, plus a few more things she picked up along the way, helped her into contention this week.
"Honestly, I think it was those expectations that kind of stood in my way a little bit at the beginning," she said. "I just think understanding that this is a new level of golf. Everyone here is talented and every week is going to be different, so just being able to have that kind of calm mentality and just accept what comes and just let go of the bad shots, I think it's really helped me for the past two rounds."
And still just getting her feet wet alongside the world's best, there are many more unforgettable weeks ahead for the new college graduate as she continues to live out her dream.
"I think after missing the first three cuts I had every reason to be disappointed," she said. "But then again, I realized I just turned 22, so there is so much for golf left in my career. I'm wanting to stay here for a really long time, so the number of rounds of golf that's ahead of me, I think that's something I look forward to more than getting down on myself on the past rounds.
"So just trying to be kind to myself once again and just taking it one shot at a time; I think that's what's really helped me here."