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updated: 5/26/2014 8:14 PM

Buffalo Grove's Ghim eager to follow Spieth's lead at Texas

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  • Doug Ghim, center, recently won an American Junior Golf Association tournament and is ranked No. 5 among top juniors. The Arlington Heights native will be a freshman on the University Texas golf team this fall.

      Doug Ghim, center, recently won an American Junior Golf Association tournament and is ranked No. 5 among top juniors. The Arlington Heights native will be a freshman on the University Texas golf team this fall.
    courtesy of Ghim family

  • Doug Ghim played one season of high school golf at Buffalo Grove before opting to play national events with the American Junior Golf Association.

      Doug Ghim played one season of high school golf at Buffalo Grove before opting to play national events with the American Junior Golf Association.
    Daily Herald file photo/2011

 
By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent

If Buffalo Grove High School senior Doug Ghim wants to know what the future holds, he may have to look no further than the career of current PGA Tour star Jordan Spieth.

Like Ghim, a standout golfer who is ranked No. 5 in the nation by the American Junior Golf Association, Spieth excelled in the AJGA before moving on to play at the University of Texas.

Spieth led the Longhorns to another NCAA golf championship in 2012, then joined the PGA Tour. He's been a sensation there, winning the 2013 John Deere Classic and leading this year's Masters for 54 holes before being overtaken by Bubba Watson.

All of Spieth's success has occurred before the Dallas native has turned 21 -- and now, Arlington Heights resident Ghim has a chance to follow the same path.

Possibly not quite a fair comparison given the extraordinary success of Spieth. But Ghim, who said his goal is "of course to play on the PGA Tour," will enroll at Texas in the fall to study and play for the Longhorns.

Ghim attended Thomas Middle School in Arlington Heights before moving on to BGHS. He played his freshman year with the Bison golf team, finishing third at the state tournament despite a battle with pneumonia late in the season. After one year, though, the senior and his family made the decision to play a more national AJGA schedule than compete on the BG team, as the schedules conflicted.

"Doug was the best player we've ever had at Buffalo Grove by far," said Bison coach Peter Duffer. "He wanted to play in a couple of national tournaments that, per IHSA rules, he would not have been allowed to compete in had he stayed on the team.

"I understand that, with the level he played at," added Duffer, "but it is what it is. When he was with us he did a lot of good things, and I believe with him and with three other players that came up the same year as he did we could have won a conference tittle.

"The great thing about Doug is how he encouraged his teammates to be the best they could be, not only with his quality of play but also by his work ethic."

For his part, Ghim said he has misgivings about leaving his high school squad after one season but also said it was the best choice for him.

"In a way I feel that I let them down," said Ghim, "because I had a lot of friends on the team. High school golf is a great experience and something that everyone should go through -- you want to win, of course, but it's more about the team experience than winning every single tournament.

"I think the guys understand."

Ghim recently had his biggest win ever on the AJGA circuit, taking home the first place trophy at this year's CB&I Boys Tournament at Carlton Woods in Woodland, Texas, a tourney that Spieth had previously won as well.

Ghim birdied 6 of the first 8 holes on the final day of the meet to win by 5 strokes.

"It was a huge win," said Ghim, "especially because in came in Texas, which will be my second home for the next four years. It made a statement.

"The last couple of years, it's been hard to win because the level of competition keeps going up. I've struggled to adjust and couldn't close tournaments out, but this victory showed that I can play with the guys at this level."

Asked to contrast his freshman year with his experiences now as a senior, Ghim called his career thus far "a blessing."

"It's been quite a ride," said Ghim, "and it's also been a little bit overwhelming. It's hard to compare then and now. For example, I just recently I competed in a U.S. Open qualifier in Lake Forest -- and I think that's the first time I've played (a meet) in Illinois in three years."

Now it'll be on to Texas for the humble, soft-spoken Ghim, and he knows there'll be a lot to live up to with the impressive Longhorn golf tradition.

In addition to the 2012 title, the school has a history of turning out great PGA tour pros such as Ben Crenshaw, who won three consecutive NCAA individual titles in the early 1970s, once tying for the title with Tom Kite, another well known pro.

The Longhorns were also team champions in 1971 and 1972.

"I'm positive that Texas is the best place for me," said Ghim. "The other schools I visited were great as well, but Texas fit me perfectly.

"I love the coaches, the facilities, and the program -- I loved it the first time I visited it. And of course, being from Illinois, the warm weather there had a lot to do with it."

Although someday you may see Ghim striding the fairways at the highest level, he also won't be neglecting his studies, perhaps declaring his major as either business or economics.

Coincidentally, Ghim is now in Duffer's AP Economics class at Buffalo Grove.

"I want to play on the pro tour," said Ghim, "but I realize the other part of the college experience is just as important. You've always got to have a plan B."

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