The four original Seoul Sisters, Se Ri Pak, Mi-Hyun Kim, Grace Park and Hee-Won Han, are largely responsible for my LPGA fandom. 2012 has seen the beginning of the end of those trailblazing players being active professional golfers. Grace Park has already walked away into the next chapter of her life. She will now be followed by Mi-Hyun Kim, who has named the 2012 KEB-Hana Bank Championship, played in her birthplace of Incheon, South Korea, as the final tournament of her career. Retirement is an inevitability in sports, but just like Grace, I wish Peanut (Mi-Hyun’s nickname) could play on the LPGA forever.
Peanut was a great player in Korea early in her career, winning 9 times on the KLPGA between 1996 and 1997. However, everything in the world of Korean golf, particularly women’s golf, would change in 1998. Se Ri Pak went to the United States to play on the LPGA Tour and had tremendous success her rookie season, winning 5 tournaments, including 2 Majors (LPGA Championship, US Women’s Open), making the American tour something more than just a dream. Almost overnight, Korean women were inspired to follow in Se Ri’s footsteps. If she could do it, why couldn’t they?
Peanut initially struggled in her 1999 rookie LPGA season, as it was difficult on her and her family to be half way around the world with no major sponsor, unlike Se Ri, who came to America backed by Samsung. Just food and lodging taxed her family nearly bone dry, until a documentary in Korea showing her plight resulted with sponsors stepping up to help her. With the financial boost, she was able to focus more on golf, resulting in two late season wins at the State Farm Rail Classic and First Union Betsy King Classic. With her late season charge, Peanut was able to secure the 1999 LPGA Rookie of the Year award. Suddenly, Se Ri Pak wasn’t the only star Korean on the LPGA Tour. Grace Park would join the tour in 2000 falling just short of Rookie of the Year honors, while Hee-Won Han would be 2001 Rookie of the Year. Pretty soon, a wave of great Korean players would join them.
Mi-Hyun would also win 2 more titles on the KLPGA to up her career professional wins on the KLPGA to 11. More importantly, in the years to come she would cement her status as a great LPGA player with 8 career victories among her 19 worldwide victories. She was a solid top 10 player, recording 13 top 10s in 2000, 10 top 10s in 2002, 15 top 10s in 2004, 9 top 10s in 2005, 13 top 10s in 2006 and 10 top 10s in 2007. The next phase of her life probably started in 2008 when she married Korean Olympic Judo Gold Medalist Won-Hee Lee. She would take a large part of the year off the tour in 2009 to have a baby.
But stats and wins and accomplishments only tell part of the story of Mi-Hyun Kim. Peanut, throughout her career, has been activley involved in giving back to those in need. While this was well known in Korea, it was an act of charity after she won the 2007 SemGroup Championship that demonstrated the depth of her heart to American LPGA fans. When around 95% of Greensburg, Kansas was leveled by a EF5 tornado, Peanut was moved by the coverage to donate $100,000 of her winnings. The president of the United Way of the Plains in Wichita, Kansas stated that the publicity around Mi-Hyun’s donation spurred an additional $1.2 million in donations.
Mi-Hyun Kim has been a true asset to the LPGA Tour. I wish her every success as she moves on in her life. Her father had a huge golf and spa complex built in Incheon, South Korea, which he named after Peanut. I’ve only seen pictures but it looks like a wonderful facility. There are reports that she will now teach golf, which makes sense. I am already missing her, but honestly it was time. She has been suffering from a severe left ankle injury and had to get a doctor’s permission just to play Hana Bank. She has given so much to her fans that I can’t imagine that any of us want to see her hobbling around and playing poorly. That she gets to go out in South Korea in her final event is fitting and I’m glad she will be able to do so. I don’t care how she finishes. Just to watch her one more time will be a joy. I hope the LPGA and Golf Channel put together a tribute package. Peanut deserves it.
LPGA Tour (8)
|No.||Date||Tournament||Winning score||Margin of
|1||6 Sep 1999||State Farm Rail Classic||-12 (66-68-70=204)||1 stroke||Janice Moodie, Pearl Sinn|
|2||10 Oct 1999||First Union Betsy King Classic||-8 (68-72-70-70=280)||1 stroke|| Beth Daniel, Helen Dobson,
|3||24 Sep 2000||Safeway LPGA Golf Championship||-1 (70-73-72=215)||Playoff||Jeong Jang|
|4||21 Jul 2002||Giant Eagle LPGA Classic||-14 (65-68-69=202)||1 stroke||Kelly Robbins|
|5||4 Aug 2002||Wendy’s Championship for Children||-8 (68-67-73=208)||1 stroke||Hee-Won Han|
|6||30 Apr 2006||Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open||-12 (70-66-69-71=276)||2 strokes||Lorena Ochoa, Karrie Webb|
|7||16 Jul 2006||Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic||-18 (68-66-67-65=266)||Playoff||Natalie Gulbis|
|8||6 May 2007||SemGroup Championship||-3 (71-68-71=210)||Playoff||Juli Inkster|
A FEW PEANUT PICS