Baldry: I.K. Kim finds way to give back

I.K. Kim of South Korea, acknowledges applause from the gallery before teeing off during the second round of the LPGA State Farm Classic.

GALLOWAY, N.J. – The last time we saw I.K. Kim, she stood in shock on the 18th green at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the victim of a stunning miss from a foot away. The gaffe cost her the year’s first major title.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, Kim sat cross-legged on a chair outside the media room at the Seaview Hotel, seconds removed from handing a check for $102,300 to the Special Olympics. That money was the second half of her winner’s check from the 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational. She gave the first half to Ochoa’s foundation.

“Once you learn about the organization, you can’t neglect it,” she said.

The ShopRite is Kim’s second event since the Kraft (she withdrew in Hawaii), after a pinched nerve on her spine left her sidelined for five weeks. Kim said she won’t ever “get over” what happened at the Kraft. But the fact that everyone asks her about it actually helps. She downloaded a video of the incident, but hasn't watched it.

“It’s very shocking,” Kim said of her big miss. “Especially on 18 at a major. I totally get it.”

She even swears more players are marking 1-footers as a result. (That’s not good for pace of play.)

Kim got the idea of starting her own foundation from observing other players on tour. At age 24, she’s fully aware that most of her time is spent in a country club bubble, traveling from one city to the next with the same group of people. To that end, the IK Foundation is 90 percent complete.

When Kim learned there were four million Special Olympic athletes from 170 countries, she was “blown away.”

“I think everybody sees them and feels for them,” Kim said. “But we are living a busy life. We sometimes forget what’s around us.”

Kim put on a clinic at Seaview after her round for Special Olympic athletes from New Jersey. As she has learned that children and adults with special needs in other parts of the world aren’t as accepted as they might be in the U.S., she has decided to make an effort to see these athletes out when she’s on the road, particularly in Asia.

And while golf won’t be on the agenda at the 2013 Special Winter Olympics in her native South Korea, she’s excited to attend and be inspired.

“I think the most important thing is acceptance for them,” Kim said. “I want them to have opportunities, not be defined by their special disabilities.

“They are golfers.”

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