CHARLOTTE, N.C. – There is a banner not far from the first tee at Quail Hollow Club this week commemorating the winner of the 2008 Wells Fargo Championship, but otherwise, the champion that year is very out of sight, if never quite out of mind with his legion of golf fans.
On this day 15 years ago, Anthony Kim became the tournament’s original first-time winner after enjoying a near-flawless performance in the final round.
The then-22-year-old Kim became not only the youngest champion of the Wells Fargo Championship, but he became the youngest first-time champion on the PGA Tour since 2001. Kim built a four-stroke lead through 54 holes with a 66 on Saturday and never looked back. His playing partner Jason Bohn called the round “almost Tiger-esque.”
“I’m a little bit numb right now, but that walk up 18 was the best feeling of my entire life,” Kim said after finishing five strokes ahead of former British Open champion Ben Curtis and shattering Woods’s tournament scoring record with a 16-under 272 total. “I’ll never forget that feeling. I had chills going up and down my spine. I want to recreate that as many times as possible now, so I’m really going to work hard.”
15 years ago, where has the time gone, AK? Burned so bright and then poof! #TBT pic.twitter.com/mixF8bsTE6
— Adam Schupak (@AdamSchupak) May 4, 2023
Kim would go on to win two more times on Tour and play on the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team before injuries derailed his career. He made his final start at Quail Hollow in 2012, withdrawing after an opening-round 74 and hasn’t competed in a Tour event since.
A New York Times article earlier this year dubbed Kim “the J.D. Salinger of golf.”
“A full decade after Kim stopped playing professional golf, people are still fascinated by him, still asking where he is, still curious if he might ever return,” the Times wrote. “They wonder, in part, because of his talent. His power, his touch, his moxie — they were a recipe for sustained greatness. More than that, though, they wonder because he never bothered to explain himself. In a world of interminable retirement tours and heart-tugging valedictory speeches, Kim walked away in 2012 without saying goodbye and has made almost no public appearances or utterances since.”
But 15 years ago, Kim, who turns 38 next month, showed what he was capable of; it’s too bad that his brilliant artistry turned out to be short-lived.