Tom Kim’s Nike deal just the beginning for golf’s next superstar

John Craven
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Tom Kim all smiles in Hawaii. (Photo by Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

It doesn’t take a genius to recognise Tom Kim’s talents but after he rocked up to the Sentry Tournament of Champions dressed head-to-toe in Nike gear, it’s time to consider that the South Korean could be golf’s next superstar.

Say what you will about Nike, but when it comes to signing sports stars, they rarely get it wrong, and they often get them young. They secured Michael Jordan’s signature at 21. Rory McIlroy made the leap to team ‘swoosh’ at 23, but it was in 1996 that Nike really made their mark on golf – a certain Eldrick Tont ‘Tiger’ Woods changing the face of the sport forever when signing his first multi-million dollar contract with the company having only just turned pro.

Woods was just 20 at the time, the same age that Tom Kim signed on the dotted line. Now he’s no doubt looking to emulate two of his golfing idols in McIlroy and Woods and work towards enjoying his own period of dominance in the game.

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“It’s very cool for me,” Kim said.

“Nike is definitely a brand where they only look at top players and I’m very, very grateful they thought about me. I think it’s a great move. It looks cool and I’m glad to be part of the swoosh team.”

Much like Sky Sports’ Micah Richards, Kim burst onto the golf scene despite missing out at Korn Ferry Tour Q-School by a shot in 2021. He backed up his Korean Tour Order of Merit victory with the Asian Tour money-list crown, earning a place in the 2022 U.S. Open and Open Championship.

Kim intended to resume his Asian Tour career and again tackle the Korn Ferry in 2022, but with those major opportunities, Kim made hay, grabbing a top-25 finish at the U.S. Open before enjoying a podium finish at the Scottish Open in July.

Taking to golf’s main stage like a duck to water, Kim then played all four rounds at the Open Championship before joining the PGA Tour as a Special Temporary Member that same month. Results were rapid – Kim sharing 26th at the 3M Open, grabbing seventh spot at the Rocket Mortgage Classic before announcing himself to the golfing world with a final round 61 to capture his maiden PGA Tour title at the Wyndham.

The first PGA Tour winner to be born after the year 2000 (2002 I might add!), Kim was never going to be a flash in the pan and quickly added a second title at the Shriners Children’s Open in October.

A month prior, Kim breathed new life into the President’s Cup, albeit while finishing on the losing side against a stacked American outfit. Barely an adult and carrying the International team on his back… the two-iron he hit on 18 from 234-yards on the Saturday to 15-feet was something else. To then hole the putt to beat arguably America’s most formidable pairing, Cantlay and Schauffele… I mean, even Xander clapped.

In Tom Kim, golf’s unearthed its next star – a potential world beater – but you don’t have to take my word for it. Shane Lowry knows a player when he sees one and in Kim, given his age and talent, the Clara man could hardly fathom the South Korean’s potential when the pair first shared the fairways now three years ago.

“I played with Tom in Hong Kong in January 2020, an Asian Tour event, I was 32 or 33 at the time,” Lowry told PGATour.com. “I remember walking down one hole and I said to him, ‘How old are you?’ And he was like, ‘Seventeen.’ I was like, ‘Oh, for f— sake!!’ (Laughing)

“I thought he was good then and obviously he’s kicked on this year and he’s done some great things.”

Somehow I don’t think we’ve seen anything yet.

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