SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. | Fans didn’t get a good sense of her during their limited initial introduction. For starters, A Lim Kim wasn’t expected to win the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Club in Houston, Texas. Amy Olson, Hinako Shibuno and Jin Young Ko seemed like the players to beat that final round on Monday last December. Then, out of nowhere, Kim birdied the last three holes to take the lead, which held up. She did it wearing a COVID-19 face covering all week and showing very little emotion – a surprise champion about which almost nothing was known.
Six months later, the defending champion is a member of the LPGA Tour. And the mask is gone, in more ways than one.
A Lim Kim is not what you think. Engage her in conversation and she almost reaches out and grabs you, her beaming expression as anxious and earnest as any new friend you’ve ever made. And even though you know she’s only picking up about a third of the English words you spew out like a broken sprinkler, she makes all the right moves, eyebrows raised, smile growing as the nods increase.
“I'm so much a mischievous little girl,” she says in an innocent way that lets you know something is lost in translation. “If my English is well enough, I can joke around to everybody. But I cannot yet. I think this is my limit for now.
“But to my surprise, so many people who didn't know me personally treated me so well. They treated me as a defending champion. I was so touched. Everybody is so nice. They have been so awesome, actually. I want to be that awesome in my personal life as well.”
“Once her English gets a little better, fans are going to love her,” said Kim’s caddie, Australian Graeme Courts. “Even now, she’ll look at me, grit her teeth and say, ‘I want to tell joke, but I don’t know English word.’ It frustrates her but she’s really working on it. She’s working with a tutor and just since March it’s gotten so much better it’s unreal.
“She had a great personality, as expressive as any player out here right now. I hope people can get to know her. They’re really going to love her.”
Courts and Kim communicate in English. But golf course language is rudimentary. Hand signals often get the job done. “We do well but she’s getting better every day,” Courts said.
“They tell me that I'm unique and I'm funny,” Kim said. “So far I’m told that I'm not ordinary.”
Courts agrees with that assessment. Even though humor in a second language is next-level stuff, Kim’s caddie says, “She is hilarious. And it doesn’t matter what she’s shooting. She’s funny with everybody and funny all the time. When we were in Singapore and she shot 75 in the final round, she said, ‘My body is hot, but my brain is frozen.’
“Okay, it was a lot funnier when she said it,” he admitted. “But she says stuff like that all the time. She’s really great.”