Double Gold for Australia as golfers claim Youth Olympic titles
12 October 2018
BUENOS AIRES 2018: Grace Kim and Karl Vilips have given Australia a golden double, taking out the women’s and men’s Youth Olympic Golf crowns after three days of spectacular play at Buenos Aires’ Hurlingham Golf Club.
Both 17-year-olds entered today’s third and final round of play atop the leaderboard, holding their nerve in wet and windy conditions to claim Australia’s first gold medals of the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympics.
Sydneysider Kim was ecstatic at the result, being mobbed on the course by coach and Australian team supporters.
“That was amazing, I’m blown away! It’s so special to win an Olympic medal,” Kim said.
“All the Aussie athletes have been trying their hardest, and I’m so happy to be able to win a gold for our Team, it’s something so special and I’ll cherish it forever.”
The golfer from Greenacre, NSW, stepped up on the biggest stage, keeping a level head as competitors dropped shots around her.
“Down the stretch I was pretty nervous, but I just tried to stay in the present and be calm, it really helped me,” the 17-year-old said.
“This is actually the calmest I’ve felt during a big tournament. Although I was still so nervous on the 17th and 18th holes I was just trying to stay calm but it’s all a blur!
“I woke up this morning from a dream that I had won the gold, and I was so nervous I couldn’t get back to sleep. I was as nervous as I was on the 18th hole.”
Kim overcame the nerves and challenging conditions to play a steady round, to claim gold ahead of Italy’s Alessia Nobilio and Austria’s Emma Spitz.
“The front 9 I tried to push the nerves away, the last couple of holes I use the nervous energy to drive me on.
“It was a really tough course. Small, fast greens, and a lot of wind which made it challenging. It was tough to figure out the wind, was very swirly and sometimes blocked by the trees. I drew compasses in my practice round and it helped me to commit to my shots. It helped me trust myself on course that I’d done the preparation.”
US-based Vilips, known by rivals as ‘Koala Karl’, then matched Grace’s lead, storming home with a monstrous last seven holes to claim Australia’s second golfing gold.
“To be able to win the first gold medals for Australia is incredible, I can’t describe it,” Vilips said.
“It feels great, a lot of hard work has paid off. It feels special to beat a stellar field like this.”
After draining a 45-foot putt on the 11th hole to bogey after going out of bounds, Vilips then birdied 4 of the last 6 holes to claim gold over USA’s Ashkay Bhatia and Netherland’s Jerry Ji.
“I doubted myself on hole 11, even hole 12, I was about 4 back with not long to play. But then everything started going my way. That long bogey save on 11 gave me confidence and I just started making putt after putt.
“The leaderboard kept jumping around, with a lot of back and forth, and was really interesting to be a part of.”
Kim and Vilips proudly received their medals as the Australian anthem rang out for the first times during these Games.
“It’s so cool to be up on that dais, to be on the highest level, I’ve only ever seen this on TV and to be able to do it myself, I know it’s something not many people get to experience,” Vilips said.
Australian Olympic gold medallists Chloe Esposito (modern pentathlon) and James Tomkins (rowing) were at the 18th hole cheering the Aussies on.
“It is amazing to be here to see the reaction from Grace and Karl as they won Australia’s first individual gold medal of the Games,” said Esposito, who is living in the Olympic Village with the Team as a mentor for the young athletes.
“The excitement from all of Team Australia is what it’s all about. I’ve been rooming with Grace all week and she is such a humble, friendly quiet achiever - I couldn’t be happier for both of them.”
Kim was chuffed to have Chloe cheering her on the green.
“Chloe coming out really means a lot. Chloe is actually a roommate and it’s really cool having an Olympic champion there cheering us home,” Kim said.
Kim and Vilips will team up for the mixed team event starting Saturday, with today’s results sending them in as red-hot favourites.