In the world of sports, an athlete’s career can be defined in a matter of seconds.
Imagine how daunting a 14-inch missed putt to claim a major championship title would feel, with the story being splashed across the cover page of many golf publications around the world.
As the LPGA Tour returns to Mission Hills Country Club for the playing of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, it would be a safe assumption that I.K. Kim may be overwhelmed with nostalgic emotions as memories from last year's loss are resurfaced.
But the South Korean decided not long after Sun Young Yoo claimed the victory that she refuses to let a moment define her - both as a golfer and as a person. Kim dealt with her loss and the bombardment of media questions with effortless class, leaving a lasting impression that would inspire many.
“I realized that there are a lot of people out there and a lot of kids out there who watch these tournaments and who wants to be on the LPGA Tour and want to become the best player or golfer, I think they need to understand it’s not always going to be glorious,” said Kim, a three-time winner on the LPGA Tour.
“Most important thing is what you believe and what you can do and what you can control. Just focus on that other than what happened because nobody can control the results. You can always come back stronger and I think that’s all I can do.”
With her infectious smile on her face, Kim confidently says that although the tournament may bring back some haunting memories, she won't let them get the best of her this week. In fact, she heads back to Mission Hills Golf Course with her head held high and fresh perspective for the week.
“Time went so fast,” said Kim says of returning to Rancho Mirage, Calif. “But I just think what a great opportunity I have. I learned a good lesson last year and I think going back that I have great memories. I think I have to focus on what I can do and play my best. I have some good momentum coming into this week and good confidence and solid game. So I can make some people who were rooting for me, I want them to feel happy to see me and all of us play well.”
Kim admits there is disappointment in her loss, but she celebrates the little victories learned from the simple mistake and focuses on the positives of her consistent golf game.
“As a competitor, I was disappointed because we all work so hard and when you have a chance to win the Kraft Nabisco or any major or any tournament that you worked so hard for and put so much hours into it, it’s disappointing not to win,” said Kim. “Having said that, I value my training and work and what I do more than what the results are. Everything has a reason.”
With the sympathy Kim received from her tough loss, she was overwhelmed with the compassion from her fellow competitors and golf fans around the world. She says she has now developed a deeper appreciation for kindhearted and selfless people like herself.
“I also learned that humans have such a big heart and they feel for people,” said Kim. “I see other athletes and I feel happy for them in the good moments and I feel bad for them in the tough ones. We all do feel for other people. I think that’s a beautiful thing. That’s what I learned. You’re not living in the world alone and I’m not the unfortunate person. There are so many others out there that need more sympathy than me and my missed putt. It just made me realize we have to look around and take care of each other.”
Kim enters the week having added another loss to her playoff record after falling to Beatriz Recari on the second hole of a sudden death playoff at the Kia Classic. With four sudden death defeats on her résumé, Kim’s charming personality and bright character won’t let these little moments take a grip on her career goals. She says those moments have shifted her focus to something much more fulfilling than any major championship.
“I just want to keep learning about myself and my golf game,” said Kim. “I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time trying to do something or be somebody and this year I want to learn and understand and be grateful for the opportunity and do what I can do. There are a lot of tournaments and I need to focus on one at a time and the results will come.”