Go to contents

Kim Young: “I’m So Happy, But I Can’t Stop Crying ”

Posted May. 29, 2007 06:48,   


Her trademark is a hat that she calls a ‘crusher.’ She wears it because it covers her face beneath the strong sun, but it also matches her introverted personality. This is because the hat allows her to avoid unnecessary eye-contact with others.

Behind her hat, tears endlessly poured out from her eyes. She was so busy crying that she did not notice her fellow Korean players approaching her to congratulate her with showers of water and soda, and she ended up soaking wet. Her first win was that emotional. Kim Young, 27, claimed her first victory after her debut five years ago on the U.S. Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour.

At the LPGA Corning Classic, which came to an end at the Corning Country Club (par 72), New York, on May 28, Kim won the tournament with a total score of 20-under-par 268. Kim had five wins in Korea, but this was her thrilling ‘first experience’ of winning on the LPGA Tour after 103 competitions.

Kim, who had long-dreamed of reaching this point, actually had not planned on taking part in this tournament, which she had not played in for two years in a row. “The fairway is narrow, so it isn’t good for a long-distance hitter like me.” On top of that, the practice range was uncomfortable, conditions were cramped with a lot of insects, and the price of the hotel room was expensive as well. But after her originally scheduled tour plan changed, she had no choice but to make an appearance.

In the first and second round, she played in the same group as Paula Creamer, a strong opponent, and Jang Jeong (Industrial Bank of Korea), who had experience in winning in the LPGA. Kim started off thinking, ‘Lets just not embarrass myself,’ but made it onto the leader board with a 12-under par. In the final round, Kim Young was shaky on the eighth and ninth holes, hitting two bogeys in a row, but came on strong in the end by grabbing two birdies in the last five holes. Kim was also lucky, as her close competition Kim Mi-hyun and Creamer both missed shots, allowing Kim Young to claim the victory that she had wanted for so long.

Kim Young, who has always been tall for her age, was a basketball player until she was in fifth grade at Bongeuy Elementary School in Chuncheon, and afterwards followed her father Kim Jeong-chan’s advice and started to play golf. While attending Gangwon Physical High School, she once defeated Han Hee-won, who was the strongest high-school player at the time. In 1997, she won the most prominent tournament in Japan and took her place as a promising golf player.

After making her debut on the professional stage in 1998, she became the Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) Open champion in 1999 and rose to stardom. At the time, Kim received the attention of Shinsegae’s owner, who had closely watched the scenes of her defeating Pak Se-ri and Nancy Lopez, and at the end of that year signed her to a contract worth the exceptional amount of 120 million won annually. In 2001, she played in the LPGA qualifying league and went on to Q-school, and up until the time she joined the LPGA Tour in 2003, she had followed along the elite course.

She previously made it to the top 10 six times in major competitions, but was kept from reaching the top by her inability to stay strong until the last moment.

At the end of last year, after more than two billion won in sponsorship money from Shinsegae over the years, she failed to renew her contract. Kim had steadily maintained good results, missing the cut for only two preliminaries out of 47 tournaments in 2005 and 2006, but the problem was that she had not eked out a single win.

After experiencing the cruel reality of the world where only the ‘champion’ is acknowledged, Kim Young was determined to work harder. “There is nothing I can do but to play better. I have to play well this year and find a new sponsor as well.”

Among Korean players who are well-known on the U.S. Tour to be hard-workers, Kim Young is called a ‘practice-worm.’ Kim Mi-hyun (KTF) said, “Kim Young is the last to leave the practice range as well.”

In order to overcome her lack of strength, she always carried around 3kg lead pouches in her bag and put them around her ankles when walking around to increase her physical strength. Kim, with a height of 173cm and elegant looks, also led the KLPGA year-end awards ceremony for two consecutive years, earning the title of a ‘talent in the field.’