Mikuni Sponsored Golfer Wins “Big Break”

Author: Steve Pajak spajak@sacbee.com
The Sacramento Bee
July 9, 2008

Kim Welch has a future in poker if her golf career doesn’t work out.

For the past seven months, Welch has known she was the winner of the Golf Channel’s “Big Break: Ka’anapali” reality series.

But she never gave a “tell.” The newspaper guy who called constantly was clueless. Her mother, Kazuko, obviously didn’t know or she wouldn’t have been too nervous to eat during the airing of the show’s finale Tuesday night. Her father, Pete, said if he could read her eyes he would have used that ability when she was a teenager and it really mattered.

Pete got an inkling, however, before the climactic episode when his daughter, self-described as the shyest player on the LPGA Futures Tour, reserved a room at Taro’s by Mikuni restaurant for family and friends.

“Sometimes you can read between the lines,” said Pete, among an enthusiastic crowd of 50 that watched Welch defeat Ladies European Tour player Sophie Sandolo 4 and 3 in the 18-hole match play final.

The sake-shooting throng certainly didn’t know the outcome, cheering an! d booing good shots and bad that were struck seven months ago when the show was taped in Hawaii during a two-week period.

The 25-year-old Roseville resident spent more time chatting with nieces, nephews, cousins and siblings. She munched on sushi in the middle of the well-wishers, enjoying seeing others squirm and adhering to her Golf Channel contract until the match was clinched.

She did have the presence to occasionally raise her arm in triumph exactly when a sinking a significant putt.

“I remember pretty much everything,” she said of her timing and nonchalance.

The reluctant “Big Break” participant, the smart aleck critical of the show’s catty nature, the player who had to be talked into auditioning and then did so only halfheartedly and yet was selected, ended up the winner.

Her prizes include an exemption into the Sept. 25-28 Navistar LPGA Classic, her entry fees into 2009 Futures Tour events waived, a BMW Z4 Coupe and an Adams Golf endors! ement contract that includes $10,000 in cash.

The most significant perk?

“The exemption, without a doubt,” she said. New cars are nice, she said, but you can’t buy entrance into an LPGA event.

Welch has driven the car only a few circles around the Ka’anapali course in December. She hopes to get the car and parlay her success and exposure into a few more LPGA sponsor’s exemptions later this season.

Taro Arai — sushi maker, restaurant owner and the host of Tuesday’s party — is a believer. He came on board as a sponsor a few months ago after meeting Welch at one of his restaurants. A passionate golfer, Arai arranged to play golf with Welch not knowing her accomplishments.

“She kicked my butt,” Arai said.

Mikuni-designed and emblazoned shirts should mesh well with Welch’s colorful scarves. Her signature accessory — she swears she has fewer than 100 — figures to be a Golf Channel staple for years.

Unless she takes up poker.

Call The Bee’s Steve Pajak, (916) 326-5526.

Copyright 2008 The Sacramento Bee
Record Number: SAC_0405235730

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