written by Karen Harding – Co Editor of Golf Victoria Magazine
As the Fairway Birdies who attended the ISPS Handa Vic Open can attest, time spent anywhere near LPGA Tour player Christina Kim is quite an experience.
Christina, who has played the LPGA Tour since 2003, recording three wins and over US$5 million prize money along the way has a flamboyant and engaging personality which has resonated with fans since she first hit the fairways.
Last week saw her first Vic Open appearance and she loved every minute of it. “I could go on and on and on,” she said. “It’s just been a remarkable week. This is something that just bucks the norm. There are so many amazing golfers here, boys and girls, and it’s just great.”
The Vic Open is unique in that both men’s and women’s championships are simultaneously played – on the same courses, at the same time, for equal prize money – over 72 holes of strokeplay at the wonderful 13th Beach links courses at Barwon Heads on the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria.
Christina, who has played multiple ISPS Handa Women’s Australia Opens and will be teeing it up at the Grange GC in Adelaide this week for another, had heard great things about the Vic Open and committed to herself as early as April last year that she would try to attend. When it became an official LPGA Tour event in late 2018, her appearance was assured.
She finished at even par for the week in a tie for 27th. But it was her own experience with the event that has her sold on it.
“I’m kicking myself for not being here from day one,” she said. “It’s so cool getting to hang out with the boys and it’s just a different atmosphere, the lack of ropes out there; it’s not that it’s more relaxed, though it is, you just get this sense of sharing the experience with everybody which I think is awesome, and you feel connected to people, too, which I think is amazing.”
Connecting with the fans is very important to Christina. “I just love the human interest stories and getting to know people and just figuring out what their story is, and where they come from, and seeing how you relate to someone when the only thing we might have in common is our love for this crazy, crazy game.”
She also loves Australia and its people. “I love it here!” she enthuses. “I love the vibe, I love the culture, everyone’s warm, people like to smile out here. Every time I set foot in this country, I feel like I’m coming home. And my boyfriend’s from New Zealand. Well, ok, I know it’s not the same (she giggles at that) but it’s in the Southern Hemisphere at least!”
Throughout the week, Christina stopped to sign hats for children, talk to anyone who wanted to talk to her, engage with sponsors and media, and generally have a good time. On Saturday night, the night before the final round, around 10pm with her having an 8.16am tee time the following morning, someone asked, ‘Where’s Christina?’ ‘On the putting green, I think’ was the response. And she was. Lying on it in fact. For no reason that anyone was able to ascertain.
But that’s Christina for you.
Though an extremely talented player – you don’t get to stay on the LPGA Tour for as long as she has without being able to play – Christina nonetheless has a refreshingly down-to-earth perspective on it all.
“You know, if my biggest problem is missing a putt on a golf course, it’s not a big problem, is it ? There’s so many things happening in the world right now, it’s so easy to lose perspective, especially when we live in this weird microcosm that is the golf industry, it’s so easy to not understand that there are real-world problems out there.”
Even as 2019 marks her 17th season on tour, Christina is as enthusiastic about playing professionally as ever. “I feel like I’m entering the second half of my career,” she said. “A lot of girls say they only want to play for ten years and then do other things but as long as I still love the game and I still want to play and I feel like I can still win, you won’t be able to get rid of me.”
Why would we want to? Always positive, always upbeat, always happy – and always, always, always dressed in colourful gear that reflects her outgoing nature – Christina is one of the best ambassadors women’s golf could have.
And as for Fairway Birdies and Nikki Wilson’s efforts to get more women and girls into golf? “That’s awesome, that’s really neat, I love that,” she enthused. And hugged all the FWB girls as they stood for a photograph together.
A special thank you to Golf Australia from all of us at Fairway Birdies who attended the ISPS Handa Vic Open. We enjoyed a wonderful day on course watching incredible golf from women & men from the LPGA Tour & The European Tour. “We will see you in 2020″…