I.K. Kim: Channeling Stephen Hawking

Okay, have you ever heard a professional golfer quote Stephen Hawking? You know, the British theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author? You know, the poor soul locked in a withered and crumpled body incapable of escaping its wheelchair?

Well, you’re about to. I.K. Kim was the poor soul who missed that one-foot putt on the 18th hole at the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA’s first major of the year. (See my post, “The Lesson In A Missed One-Foot Putt.”)

Every day since then, people have wanted to ask her about that putt. From her friends, calm words of understanding. From the inexperienced or uninformed, incredulity and dismay and blame…in so many words. 

That’s what I love about playing majors and being as a professional golfer.  Sometimes it’s not easy because whole world is looking at you and see your results and things like that.

But, yeah, I learned a lot.  I think last year was big turning point of my life of learning and what’s really important.  It just gave me different view of it.

Well, so, look back, it was tough to handle at first, but I think it’s important not only to the viewers and the people, but to let other people, younger generation, to know that it’s not always going to be glorious and like victory.

Life is not about winning or losing.  When you’re 80 and look back, you’re not going to remember, Oh, I should have make that putt.  I mean, when you’re 80, it’s more about how much you have fun and enjoy your life.

As I learned with a disappointed Tour pro at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix this year, a final irreparable mistake can render them glassy-eyed and speechless. Not so with Kim who surprisingly lingered for an hour or more afterward taking questions from the media:

Just answering your question about answering questions and interviewing after, if I won the tournament I would have done it.  If I finished second place, I need to do it as well.  Not always when you’re winning the tournament.  People want to hear the winning stories and all the things.  I mean, that’s what it is.

But finishing second, third, whatever you finish, I don’t think your attitude needs to change about talking to people. [She did, after all, finish second.]

But still the questions come; every day. And, full disclosure, when I saw her on the range at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix, the thought crossed my mind too. But I had already posited a consciousness theory about her miss in my post above. I would have had to spend my whole five minutes getting her on the same wavelength to get to the deeper questions her miss inspired.

With the passage of time and corresponding diminishing number of those kinds of questions, perhaps there will be an opportunity next year. But for now, the questions persist:

My coach said there is big elephant sitting right here that you could not see it — or I guess you could see it.

Yeah, I get the question all the time.  I can’t really control what other people think or what they want to ask.  I can’t really change their mind.  I can’t really explain what had happened and what I learned.

But I can control my thoughts.  I just know there are so many people supporting me no matter what I do.  I really appreciate that.  I get criticized for that putt.  That’s what they think and believe, so I don’t really…

In a nice affirmation, her fellow players felt like if this was going to happen to anyone it should happen to her because she could handle it. And she felt that support from her peers:

Yes, I still get all the time.  Yeah, now I know who is a true friend, I guess.  But, well, everybody on the tour, maybe not in front of so many people, are missing short putts.  All the golfers have missed that putt.  It doesn’t feel good or great, but it happens.

Nothing you can control.  Even Stephen Hawking said in the time travel you cannot go back and do things backwards again, so you just got to live today.  We’re human.  We remember things good or bad.  You sometimes live in that memory, and I don’t want to be that person.

I choose it and everybody can choose their own story or life.

And then someone in the media asked two brilliant questions that got to the heart of things, not just about the nature of the questions, but to Kim’s reputation on Tour as a “deep thinker:”

I was talking to your mental coach because I know you sought out the advice of them.  They said that you were kind of frustrated that you weren’t being asked the right questions about this.  What did you learn from this whole experience about yourself, and what do you want us to know about it, about the missed putt?

Well, I don’t know.  What’s the question about?  Like what you feel about the whole thing last year?

Yeah.  You’ve learned a lot from this.  You’re a deep thinker, but you’re getting shallow questions.  What are the questions we should be asking you in terms of what you’ve learned?

I just think that this game really teaches a lot, you know.  I’m sure there are people struggling right now.  You know, I don’t know, some people are dying from hunger, and you don’t see that in everyday life.

There are people dying and everything is happening.  So some people think it’s really tough and feel sorry for what happened.  I just think that it doesn’t matter what happens.  What matters is what you do after, how you’re going to come back, and what you’re going to do the next time.

You know what I mean?

So I think what I’m saying is sometimes you got to just pick yourself up and be tough and just move on.  Don’t really feel sorry for yourself, because it’s life.  You have to be happy and enjoy what you have is I think what I’ve learned.

A lot of times that I look and think about results and I want to win this and that and be better, that’s great, but I think you either live life happy or unhappy.

All lessons from a missed one-foot putt.

And there is one last measure from Tuesday’s media session to get a sense of just who this young woman is. She is a spokeswoman for the Special Olympics:

Wow, I don’t know where to start.  Just makes me speechless when I work with Special Olympic athletes, their dedication and their — it’s just — all I’m really asking people is to just be aware.  Because I get the opportunity all the time, but when you have disabilities, sometimes people judge you as a disabled person.

But I never seen them crying or angry.  They’re always happy and they always give a hug.  They’re so supportive.  They don’t judge you as a golfer.  They don’t care I.K. Kim or whoever comes.  They treat you as a person.  I want them to live in the community as who they are.

Wouldn’t it be great if we all lived our lives as who we are? What would that kind of world look like? As I.K. says, “Wow!”

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