Zhimin strikes golf gold

Posted on Jun 27 2022

Zhimin Jin is flanked by Cook Islands’ Rotana Howard, left, and Samoa’s Faith Vui after winning the women’s individual gold medal in the golf competition of the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 last Friday at the Coral Ocean Resort. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Zhimin Jin is not just the future of CNMI golf as the 15-year-old proved she’s also the present after winning the women’s individual gold medal at the conclusion of the golf competition of the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 last Friday at the Coral Ocean Resort.

The Marianas High School student turned back challenges from Cook Islands’ Rotana Howard and Samoa’s Faith Vui to maintain her perch atop the leaderboard. Jin shot a par 72 in the fourth and final round to finish the tournament at 312, a mere stroke ahead of runner-up Howard’s 313 and two strokes better than Vui’s 314.

Jin said winning the gold medal in the Mini Games has given her a lot mixed emotions.

“I feel really great and I was also emotional and there were people there who saw me cry after the round.”

Aside from her obvious home course advantage, Jin also credited her caddy, Joe “Kamikaze” Camacho, for helping her mentally get through the 72 holes of golf during the four-day tournament.

“I think the familiarity with the course helped because it’s my home course. But at the same time my caddy who is also my coach also tried to help me maintain my composure. Because sometimes when I miss some shots I’d be like feeling mad and he’s helped me calm down,” she said.

Jin dedicated her gold medal to two of her biggest supporters—her family and the CNMI National Golf Team. She also extended her gratitude to the Commonwealth Federation of Golf Associations for giving her a chance to represent the Commonwealth in the Mini Games.

Camacho credited his ward for following his instructions to the T and not wavering even against golfers twice her age.

“For the most part what was really important and it made all the difference was we worked as a team. We built a game plan for her and we stuck to the plan. A lot of prep talk about the pressures of high-level competition and I prepared her for all that before and during the Games.”

He said Jin is also one of the hardest workers in the sport on island.

“She really, really put a lot of hard work into this. I told her on the third day, ‘you do the playing and I’ll do the thinking’ and on the first day before she teed off I told her, ‘well champ, this is day that you’ve been waiting for so let’s do this and most importantly a swing and a stroke at a time and let’s have fun doing it,’” said Camacho.

The veteran striker said he couldn’t be prouder for Jin winning the gold medal in the Games.

“I’m very proud of her and I’m glad to be a part of her accomplishments in golf. To see your student reach a milestone by winning a gold medal is the most fulfilling and satisfying feeling you can get as a coach.”

The CNMI men also hit pay dirt after J.J. Atalig and his son, Joshua, Zhi Yun Li, and Franco Santos came away with the best score in the final 18 holes to salvage the bronze medal. The CNMI men finished with 224 in the last round—seven strokes better than the next best total score.

The quarter finished third behind powerhouses New Caledonia (893) and Guam (901) after totaling 928 in all four rounds. Santos was in the forefront of the final day assault as he fired a 69, while J.J. came through with a 78 and Joshua and Li shot identical 79s.

Coach Victor Salas couldn’t be happier for the men’s team getting the gold medal on home soil.

“I’m happy the men’s won bronze. On the last day of competition Fiji was trailing behind us by just three strokes. I told the men I needed them to shoot 70s or better and they promised they’ll go out and finish strong.”

He thanked the Commonwealth Federation of Golf Associations, Pacific Mini Games Organizing Committee, volunteers, and the people of the CNMI for their support before, during, and after the Games.

“We dedicate this medal to the volunteers and the people of the CNMI. Even if we didn’t win any medals we’re all winners just by the hospitality we’ve shown to our visiting countries,” said Salas, who was joined in the national team coaching staff by Ned Norita and Yuko Togawa.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com
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