LYTHAM ST ANNES, England – It sounded like an explosion.
“Is it World War three?” In-Kyung Kim asked laughing. “At least we got pot bunkers.”
Thankfully, no one took shelter in the numerous pot bunkers at Royal Lytham & St Annes on Tuesday. A third World War didn't originate at the Ricoh Women’s British Open. But whatever the loud noise was that interrupted the defending champion’s press conference, Kim didn’t seem at all fazed.
She’s dealt with much worse.
The Korean was mid-answer when the loud noise interrupted her train of thought. She was responding to a question about getting over the hurdle of winning her first major championship in 2017, when she broke through at Kingsbarns Golf Links. The victory came five years after she missed a 14-inch putt to win the 2012 ANA Inspiration. Her life was never quite the same, until her win last year.
Kim found peace.
“This year was very spectacular,” Kim explained. “It’s been a long process and I feel like now I’ve put in the right amount of work and now I just need to trust in God and have fun.”
Just as Kim cleared her largest hurdle on the golf course, another challenge began. In January, her golf clubs were lost after the season opening event in the Bahamas, some of which were recovered more than two months later in a second-hand sporting goods shop near her home in San Diego. She spent months replacing the clubs she had played with for more than two years. She’s only become comfortable with her new equipment over the last few weeks. But just as Kim did following her loss at ANA, she looked for the silver lining.
“I have clubs that I got to know a little bit better,” Kim explained. “It helped me a lot of different ways. How to travel safer and just random things can happen. It’s been a journey.”
This week, Kim will defend her title at her favorite course in the world. In 2009, Kim played Royal Lytham & St Annes for the first time when it hosted the Ricoh Women’s British Open. Kim was in only her third season on Tour. In 2007, she played her first Women’s British Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews. In 2008, she played Sunningdale. She was getting spoiled. Then, in 2009, there was Royal Lytham & St Annes. Kim formed a love, hate relationship with the course. But there was much more love than hate.
“I was going into every bunker and I just cried like crazy, because I’ve never experienced not getting out of a bunker,” Kim said. “It was kind of first true links for me. I think that’s why it’s my favorite.”
Finding joy among life’s challenges has been a hallmark of Kim’s career. By enduring heartbreaking loss in 2012, and years without a victory, she learned to relate to people in the toughest of circumstances. Kim is an ambassador for the Special Olympics. Her experiences with the athletes have taught her there’s much more to life than the wins and losses of golf.
“Sometimes I get frustrated. Even though I get better, sometimes I want the results to come out, especially with what I do,” Kim explained. “They’re not playing for something else. They just purely love playing golf.”
And she’s learned to appreciate the smallest of life’s treasures.
Monday, on the more than four-hour bus ride from last week’s Tour stop at Gullane Golf Club in Scotland to Royal Lytham & St Annes in England, Kim took in the beauty of her surroundings. She marveled at the number of sheep she saw along the way. She drew photos of them and posted them to her Instagram account. She finds peace in nature.
“Being surrounded by nature and not surrounded by buildings, I think that helps me a lot with staying calm.”
Kim was still as a loud explosion interrupted her press conference on Tuesday. After quipping about taking shelter in the pot bunkers she completed her answer about how she got over the hurdle of winning her first major.
“Seeing my face everywhere, I’m not used to it,” Kim said about seeing herself on the tournament’s promotional materials. “I try to not make this like a norm, because, this is not why I play golf at the end of the day.”
Golf is a big part of Kim’s life, but it doesn’t define her. And becoming a major champion didn’t change her, but it certainly helped her find peace.