LAKE WORTH, Fla. – A 16-year-old tennis star with ties to southwest Missouri is making a name for herself in the sport.

Kate Kim grew up playing multiple sports in Springfield, including tennis. When she was 10 she signed up for a local tournament.

“There must have been only like four or five girls signed up,” Kim said. “I lost really badly.”

But that tournament lit a spark in Kim. After the tournament, she asked her mom to sign her up for private tennis lessons. Her family then moved to Kansas City to continue her training. After a win at a major tournament, it was time for another relocation, this time to Florida. Kim was in the 8th grade and had only been playing for a few years. She and her mom made the move. Her dad Dr. Frank Kim, who works for Freeman Health System in Joplin, stayed behind.

That leap of faith has paid off in a big way. This past year Kim won the hard court Eddie Herr International Championship and clay court Orange Bowl International Championship in her age group. Previous winners of these tournaments include tennis stars like Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, Coco Gauff, Chris Evert, Roger Federer, and John McEnroe. It’s believed she’s just the second player ever to win these events back to back.

“Its been a great experience. I feel really fortunate to be surrounded by so many great athletes and be able to travel across pretty much the whole country and meet players from everywhere and just know we’re all in the same boat.”

Kim trains from anywhere to two to four hours a day on top of her school work. She’s currently enrolled in Stanford University’s Online High School program, where she gets straight A grades. Kim said she plans to attend college before possibly turning pro, and has dreams of competing in a Junior Grand Slam.

She’s begun dabbling in adult tournaments, allowing her to see how her skills stack up against more experienced competition.

“I’m really looking forward to the competition because I feel like it’s different, the juniors,” Kate said. “Obviously playing adults they’re much more mature mentally and physically. The competition is completely different than juniors.”

With her dad still in Missouri, Kim said her family tries to see each other at least once a month. FaceTime is also big in the Kim family.

Dr. Kim said his daughter’s success has not gone unnoticed, with plenty of interest from division one and Ivy League tennis teams. Regardless of what his daughter decides to do with her tennis career, he said he just wants what’s best for her.

“As long as she is working diligently and for a common goal, and hopefully that goal is improving not only herself but also bringing some positivity to the community and perhaps even in a wider arena, that’s what we really hope for.”