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Newcomer Kaufman quickly makes mark on Symetra Tour

  • Kim Kaufman, who attended Texas Tech from South Dakota, practiced for the upcoming Northeast Delta Dental International tournament part of the LPGA Symetra Tour. The tournament starts on Friday at Beaver Meadows Golf Course in Concord.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Kim Kaufman, who attended Texas Tech from South Dakota, practiced for the upcoming Northeast Delta Dental International tournament part of the LPGA Symetra Tour. The tournament starts on Friday at Beaver Meadows Golf Course in Concord.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Kim Kaufman, who attended Texas Tech from South Dakota, practiced for the upcoming Northeast Delta Dental International tournament part of the LPGA Symetra Tour. The tournament starts on Friday at Beaver Meadows Golf Course in Concord.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Kim Kaufman, who attended Texas Tech from South Dakota, practiced for the upcoming Northeast Delta Dental International tournament part of the LPGA Symetra Tour. The tournament starts on Friday at Beaver Meadows Golf Course in Concord.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Kim Kaufman, who attended Texas Tech from South Dakota, practiced for the upcoming Northeast Delta Dental International tournament part of the LPGA Symetra Tour. The tournament starts on Friday at Beaver Meadows Golf Course in Concord.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Kim Kaufman, who attended Texas Tech from South Dakota, practiced for the upcoming Northeast Delta Dental International tournament part of the LPGA Symetra Tour. The tournament starts on Friday at Beaver Meadows Golf Course in Concord.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Kim Kaufman, who attended Texas Tech from South Dakota, practiced for the upcoming Northeast Delta Dental International tournament part of the LPGA Symetra Tour. The tournament starts on Friday at Beaver Meadows Golf Course in Concord.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Kim Kaufman, who attended Texas Tech from South Dakota, practiced for the upcoming Northeast Delta Dental International tournament part of the LPGA Symetra Tour. The tournament starts on Friday at Beaver Meadows Golf Course in Concord.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Kim Kaufman, who attended Texas Tech from South Dakota, practiced for the upcoming Northeast Delta Dental International tournament part of the LPGA Symetra Tour. The tournament starts on Friday at Beaver Meadows Golf Course in Concord.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Kim Kaufman, who attended Texas Tech from South Dakota, practiced for the upcoming Northeast Delta Dental International tournament part of the LPGA Symetra Tour. The tournament starts on Friday at Beaver Meadows Golf Course in Concord.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Kim Kaufman, who attended Texas Tech from South Dakota, practiced for the upcoming Northeast Delta Dental International tournament part of the LPGA Symetra Tour. The tournament starts on Friday at Beaver Meadows Golf Course in Concord.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Kim Kaufman, who attended Texas Tech from South Dakota, practiced for the upcoming Northeast Delta Dental International tournament part of the LPGA Symetra Tour. The tournament starts on Friday at Beaver Meadows Golf Course in Concord.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

Kim Kaufman didn’t just join the Symetra Tour a month ago. She crashed through the front door with a holler.

Only three weeks after graduating from Texas Tech, Kaufman finished 10th in her first professional tournament. Two weeks after that, on June 30, Kaufman claimed her first pro title, winning the Island Resort Championship in Harris, Mich. In just four tournaments she’s won $22,785, which puts her ninth on the money list for the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit.

She always dreamed of being a professional golfer, but Kaufman didn’t dream it would start like this.

“I didn’t really have any expectations, especially coming in mid-season, I just thought it would be a good experience. So I didn’t come out here with a lot of pressure. No one knew who I was and no one expected much,” said Kaufman, who is in Concord this week preparing for the Northeast Delta Dental International, which runs tomorrow through Sunday at Beaver Meadow Golf Course.

Kaufman picked up her first clubs at age 4 and was a four-time South Dakota state champion at Clark High School. She became one of Texas Tech’s top golfers the moment she stepped on campus as a freshman, shooting a school-record 65 in November of 2009. And after the fall 2012 semester, her senior year, she was ranked as the No. 1 golfer in the country by Golfweek. That ranking equaled a free pass onto the Symetra Tour for Kaufman, who had planned on keeping her amateur status this summer before going to LPGA qualifying school in September to play her way into the pro ranks. Instead, she got to jump to the next level with clubs blazing.

“This turned out perfect for me,” Kaufman said.

With all those accolades under her belt, it seems odd Kaufman didn’t have high expectations when she hit the Symetra Tour. But she struggled toward the end of the spring portion of the Texas Tech schedule, which included a middle-of-the-pack individual finish in the Big 12 Championships and a disappointing 11th place in the team standings in the NCAA Central Regional.

But the spring was hardly a total loss. Kaufman graduated with a 4.0 GPA, and during the three weeks between graduation and her first Symetra event she worked on her game, which included a week at home in South Dakota with her instructor, Todd Kolb, who has been coaching her since age 6. Still, she arrived at her first tournament, the Decatur-Forsyth Classic in Decatur, Ill., with some butterflies.

“I was nervous, my dad was caddying for me, and I was a little stressed,” Kaufman said. “I made the cut and then I knew I needed to relax. I told myself, ‘It’s still just a golf course, it’s still just girls that have probably played in college.’ I just had to reset my mind.”

The self pep talk worked. She shot a 4-under 68 in the third and final round to finish tied for 10th and earn a $1,725 payday. That result gave her some confidence and the next week she had another strong showing, finishing tied for 16th at the Four Winds Invitational in South Bend, Ind.

Things got even better the following week when she went to Michigan. After shooting 71 and 74 in the first two rounds, Kaufman entered the final round the same way she arrived on tour – with no expectations. The result was a stellar 4-under 68 on a windy day that put her on top of the leaderboard. She had to wait in the clubhouse for more than hour to discover her fate, which turned out to be a playoff with Mitsuki Katahira. It took only one hole as Kaufman made par on the par-5 18th hole at the Sweetgrass Golf Club, and Katahira couldn’t match.

“I did surprise myself a little bit with that,” she said. “I was playing well and thinking just get a top five, and then I was in the playoff.”

The win was worth $17,250 and propelled her into the top 10 of the money list, a place where all of the Symetra golfers want to be since the top 10 at the end of the year earn LPGA cards. Kaufman kept herself in that group with an 11th-place result last week in Albany, N.Y., and she’s hoping to maintain that standing this weekend at Beaver Meadow.

“I think it’s a good course for me, you have to be accurate and there a lot of wedges out there, definitely a lot of birdie chances,” she said.

There’s also a good sign for Kaufman here in Concord. This is her first trip to New Hampshire, and so far this summer, she’s aced all of her new adventures.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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