There’s one refrain often echoed by champions on the LPGA Tour. They crave balance.
While it seems like a simple quest, it’s one that even Sei Young Kim, a 12-time winner on the LPGA Tour, Rolex Player of the Year and major champion, continues to work to achieve.
For Kim and the best players in the game, the pursuit of greatness is in delicate balance with a desire to maintain a sense of self away from the golf course. But when their earliest memories in life are tied to golf, the ability to separate the person from the profession presents an ongoing challenge.
“If you are too focused on your goal, you can lose your life and your balance,” Kim told LPGA.com, as she was guilty of putting Sei Young the golfer ahead of Sei Young the person.
After a successful stint on the Korea LPGA, which saw her win five times between 2013 and 2014, Kim earned status on the LPGA Tour in 2015. She enjoyed a breakout rookie season in which she won three times and earned Rookie of the Year honors. In 2016, her ongoing drive for perfection drove her to match the 72-hole scoring record previously set by Annika Sorenstam at 27-under par. In 2018, at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic, Kim broke the record she shared with Sorenstam, climbing to 31-under par.
“If I reach the goal, I keep pushing myself,” Kim explained.
Kim continued to drive forward. In 2019, she captured the CME Group Tour Championship for the biggest payday in the women’s game - $1.5 million dollars. The victory was her 10th on the LPGA Tour. But there was one piece of her growing resume that continued to elude her: a major championship. In 2020, Kim broke through at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Aronimink Golf Club. She once again won in record fashion at 14-under par, which was a new tournament record.
“I waited for a long time to win the major tournament,” Kim said. “I'm very happy with achieving my biggest goal.”
While Kim has realized so many of her dreams, she pushes onward. Next on her list of goals is winning the U.S. Women’s Open. She also wants to qualify for the World Golf and LPGA Tour Halls of Fame. And as she works towards these big goals, she knows she can’t pursue them at the expense of her own needs.
“When you recognize that, it feels like, ‘okay, it's not perfect, my life,’” Kim explained about searching for balance. “When you recognize that, when you figure it out, you try to keep a good life and be a good golfer.”
She is 28. Many of her friends are getting married and having children. Having a family is one way that many of the traveling moms on Tour have found an identity away from the golf course. It’s something that Kim has thought about, too.
“Definitely,” Kim said when asked about whether she’d like to have a family someday. “And that's really happy if I do that because it's everything.”
Kim still uses Taekwondo – her father is a grand master, and she has been practicing the martial art since she was a child – to help balance her life. And she enjoys dinners with friends away from the course, as well as exploring the cultural centers in Dallas, Texas where she now lives. But Kim has also been driven to succeed at the highest level, achieving feats never seen before in the women's game. And with any great achievement, there comes sacrifice, especially if a player puts her profession ahead of herself.
Maintaining steadiness in her life and career is an ongoing pursuit.“I'm still working on it,” Kim said about finding her footing away from golf. “I'm still trying. It's not easy.”