Kim donates winner’s check from Ochoa event

In-Kyung Kim after winning the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

For a 22-year-old, In-Kyung Kim thinks big. Not just in terms of golf, though she does expect big things from her game, but in terms of life. Kim looks at the big picture – whether it’s the environment, worldwide disasters, or a child’s dream and an opportunity to help. For Kim, it’s all about timing.

“It’s the same with golf, with love,” Kim said. “You can’t always wait. You have to give what you have right now.”

Which is why, moments after clinching the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, Kim told Golf Channel viewers that she planned to donate her entire paycheck – $220,000 – to charity. Half of the money will go to Ochoa’s foundation, the other half to an American charity of her choice. That’s a large chunk of the $1,121,381 she has earned this season.

It’s a wonderful, selfless act that probably won’t generate the attention it deserves. Kim decided months before she arrived in Mexico that when she won again on tour, she would donate her entire check. When she called back home to Korea after the victory, her father asked, “Well, did you really do it?” Kim confirmed. “Everything?” her father replied. 

It is hard to believe, though Kim said her parents are proud. 

“She does so many great things,” Kim said of Ochoa, “and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Kim has been far more independent than most Korean players, living on her own in San Diego and essentially calling the shots on tour. She also has an impressive grasp of the English language, having come to the International Junior Golf Academy on Hilton Head Island as a teenager – alone. 

Kim knows she wouldn’t be in America living out her dream if it weren’t for a family friend, Uncle Oh. Even when Kim didn’t believe, Oh did. He helped fund Kim’s journey to the IJGA, and she later paid him back. But if Uncle Oh hadn’t been there at that particular time, there’s no telling where life would’ve taken her.

On Friday night in Guadalajara, there was a party for Ochoa’s foundation (and her 29th birthday) at the tournament host hotel. Kids from the school she funds came out to put on a show for the players and Kim was smitten with the work Ochoa does in her hometown. One day, she’d like to have a foundation of her own.

“The little kids don’t know who they are going to be until they see it or they feel it,” Kim said. “It’s all about timing. If I can give them a chance ...”

Kim started to lose patience in regards to her own timing as the year wore on, and she notched one top 5 after another but no victories. Kim said her caddie, Terry McNamara, proved the wiser of the two, encouraging her that they were progressing on the right path. McNamara had worked with Annika Sorenstam for many years and is accustomed to being in the hunt on Sundays. Said Kim: “It’s normal for him but not for me!”

On occasion, she asked McNamara for secrets from his past. How did Sorenstam get so good at her wedge game? How did she practice?

Kim’s background isn’t similar to Sorenstam’s, and she plays a very aggressive game. But she enjoys listening to her caddie’s stories. On Sunday, after she won, McNamara passed along a congratulatory text from Annika to Kim. 

“I was so over the moon,” Kim said.

Kind of like the kids in Guadalajara, thanks to Kim’s extraordinary gift.

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