An Interview with Rising Canadian Golfer, Taylor Kim

Taylor Kim’s story is a quintessential Canadian one – reflecting much of the modern day experience of many new Canadians, but with a golf twist.

Her parents made the decision to relocate to Canada seeking better opportunities for their children — and golf, along with a good education, quickly became one of those opportunities.

Taylor is a conditional member of the Symetra Tour for the 2017 season, having qualified for the developmental tour by virtue of her finish at the LPGA’s Stage II qualifying tournament.

I sat down recently with Taylor at her home course of Northview Golf & Country Club where she took time out of her busy practice day to visit with me for a quickfire Q&A.

Taylor Kim fairway womens golfWhere is your “hometown”?
Surrey, British Columbia (a suburb in the Greater Vancouver region)

What was your major in University?
BSc. Degree in Organizational Communication (May 2016)

What is your current professional status?
Symetra Tour Member with “J” Category Priority

When did you start following or watching the LPGA?
4 or 5 years of age

Did you have a favorite player that you followed or took interest in?
Se Ri Pak, and then Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa

What is your favorite club in the bag?
My Driver!

What is your favorite shot to play?
The high fade shot into the green with my mid-irons

Taylor Kim equipment womens golf newsletterWhat is currently* in your bag?

  • Driver – Ping G Series 9° loft, stiff flex shaft
  • 3W – Ping G Series, 15° loft, stiff flex shaft
  • Hybrids: – 19° Ping G Series and 22° Ping G Series
  • 5 – PW: Ping S-55 irons
  • Wedges: Ping Glide Series 50° loft, 54° loft, and 58° loft
  • Putter – Scotty Cameron Titleist Futura X5
  • Ball – Titleist Pro V1 Bag – Ping Staff Bag

*As of February 01, 2017

Early Interest

Taylor’s first interest in golf came from watching the LPGA on television.  Like many others in her native South Korea, she quickly became aware of Se Ri Pak and her monumental win in the 1998 US Women’s Open in Kohler, Wisconsin.

She shares that she thought that golf was “pretty cool” as “the girls were playing on … grass and playing different courses”.  It was this interest in the game that sparked her first dreams of someday “being up there” and playing on those same courses.

She then picked up some of her father’s clubs and played around the house with them.In their native South Korea, her father, Simon, was a certified teaching professional, playing and teaching golf to both juniors and adults alike.

So when Taylor showed interest in the sport, her father naturally leaped at the opportunity to introduce his daughter to the game with passion and commitment.

The family uprooted and moved from South Korea to Canada with Taylor at the young age of 9.  The family settled in Surrey, British Columbia – a major suburb of the greater Vancouver area.

The greater Vancouver area is known for its mild winter weather.  Whereas the rest of Canada will often experience harsh, snow-filled winters, Canada’s west coast is generally mild, offering nearly year-round golfing opportunities.

“My father used to take me around to all sorts of driving ranges when I was little . . . when I was 13 I was also a member at Coyote Creek (a local practice range) where I used to practice until sunset” Taylor says fondly.

She recalls a particular drill where her father used to have her hit about 90 golf balls to a target that was 100 yards out and she had to hit them all to within 15 feet.  Taylor wistfully recalls that “I used to have to go out and get the golf balls off of the grass that missed and then hit them again until I got them within 15 feet”.

Collegiate & National Team Career

After a fairly eventful junior golf career, Taylor initially accepted a golf scholarship at the University of Texas playing varsity golf for the women’s team.   After playing her freshman year in Austin, Taylor then transferred to Kent State University in Ohio after a chance encounter with Head Coach Greg Robertson at a Canadian National Team event.

Taylor Kim at the 2011 Spirit International

Taylor describes her time at Kent State as some of her best years in her relatively young life so far.  At Kent State, she joined up with one of her teammates from the Canadian National Team in Jennifer Ha.

While at Kent State the women’s team continued their conference dominance, winning the MAC (Mid-American Conference) Championship every year that she attended.  In her last year (2015-2016), the “Golden Flashes” won the conference for a record 18th consecutive time.

It was at Kent State and on the Canadian National Team where Taylor experienced tremendous growth and development as she took her game to new heights.  While playing for Kent State, she tied the program’s 9th best score ever with a tournament 68.  She also tied for the second-best 54-hole tournament score in the program’s history shooting 209 at the Schooner Fall Classic.

In addition, Taylor finished T-1 for a victory at the Mercedes Benz Classic in her senior year.  She also was MAC First Team in her senior year while also winning the MAC Player of the Year honors.

Her time with the Canadian National Team program was also a big factor in her development.  At the National Team, she was exposed to a high caliber program, working with specialized coaching, structured fitness training programs, a personal nutritionist and sports psychologists.

Taylor also traveled abroad, representing Canada twice at the British Women’s Amateur Championships, firstly in 2010 at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and then the following season at Scotland’s famed Carnoustie – often referred to as the most difficult course on the entire British Open rota.

This National Team experience helped her develop personalized training and practice programs while helping her to continue developing the mental aspects of the game that is so important in competitive golf.

As a member of the National Team, she forged very close friendships with other team members, including her team mate at Kent State – Jennifer Ha, and a young Brooke Henderson.  “We were like best friends.  I enjoyed bonding with the girls and experiencing the team environment.”

Brooke Henderson and Taylor Kim at the 2011 Spirit International

She also benefited from the support network developed with other National team members, in particular with older players like Augusta James and Brittany Marchand.   “They knew how college worked. I asked them about coaches, schools, and tournaments.  I asked them so many questions about college.  They were a big help to me” explains Taylor.

Professional Status – The Next Step

Having graduated in the spring of 2016 and with a satisfying collegiate golf career now behind her, Taylor was facing some decisions about her career path and where to go with her golf.  After a short period of deliberation, she chose to turn professional and try and earn her LPGA card.

Regarding her eventual decision to turn professional, there was no single event in her life that served as an epiphany for her.  Instead, it was a gradual process and she credits her friend Brooke Henderson for being a big part of it.

“Brooke – she was 14 (years of age) when she won the Canadian National Amateur Championship.  She then told me she was going to turn pro the next year (at 15 years),” recalls Taylor before adding “I kind of thought that I want to be like her and be a professional golfer.”

“Brooke is a great golfer.  She is a genius.  She won the Canadian Amateurs, she competed at the World Amateurs, and at 14 she made the cut at a LPGA event – the Canadian Women’s Open and then turned pro.  It motivated me a lot.  She was three years younger than me and it made me think that it was possible – why can’t I do that (become a professional player)?”

Seeing her younger team mate’s success firsthand became a big source of motivation and inspiration for Taylor.  She reasons that she and Brooke were part of the same training program (Canadian National Team) and that with hard work Taylor could have a future as a professional too.

2016 US Women’s Open

Taylor Kim womens golf interviewAfter turning professional in the early spring of 2016, Taylor qualified for the US Women’s Open.  She captured first place at the sectional qualifier at Green Valley Country Club, finishing the two – day tournament with a score of 142 (-2) securing the top qualifying spot.

That summer, the US Women’s Open was hosted by Corde Valle in San Martin, California.  Won by American Brittany Lang, the tournament was also notable for the rules penalty assessed to Anna Nordqvist when her club touched a few grains of sand in the bunker.

For Taylor, it was also memorable for being a tremendous learning experience and one that she fully appreciated.  It also provided her with an up-close look at what it was like to play with the top women of the LPGA.

Most US Opens are known for their difficult setup, often claiming many casualties with its penal rough and lightning quick greens.  This edition was no exception either as Taylor missed the cut along with several past champions such as Se Ri Pak (1998), Na Yeon Choi (2012), Michelle Wie (2014) and the then defending champion In Gee Chun (2015).

LPGA Qualifying

The next major step towards her professional career was to earn membership on the LPGA or at worst, full-time status on the Symetra Tour.   Taylor entered the LPGA’s Stage I Qualifying Tournament hosted at Mission Hills Country Club – the perennial home of the Ana Inspiration (Kraft Nabisco/Dinah Shore Classic), one of the LPGA’s major championships.

She played well and earned her way on to Stage II Qualifying at the Plantation Golf & Country Club in Florida.  It was here that she experienced what would become her first major disappointment in her young professional career.

Disappointment

Pursuing one’s goal of achieving a high level of excellence in any field is difficult under normal circumstances whether it be in the office environment or in the arena of professional sports.  In life as in sports, adversity is never too far away.

The Stage II qualifying tournament in Florida was plagued by unseasonably bad weather with colder than normal temperatures and high winds, making scoring more difficult and unpredictable.

She finished the 4-day tournament T-85, falling 1-stroke short of advancing to Stage III and with it, full membership status on the Symetra Tour.

While in competitive golf, players lose way more often than they win, this result was not supposed to happen.

Entering the Stage II tournament, Taylor was confident of progressing, “I obviously thought that I was going to make it through Stage II.  The course did fit me really well in Florida and I was just expecting it to be perfect for me.”

Then the unthinkable happened.  She missed the cut by one stroke.  Had she shaved just one more stroke off of her score, she would have qualified for Stage III.  Instead, it became an extremely difficult time for Taylor.

As she discusses this experience with me, I sense a bit of the raw emotion just below the surface, “When I missed by a shot it was hard to take in and get over it . . . when I missed advancing I couldn’t really think about anything else.”

Taylor Kim Womens golf
Canada’s Taylor Kim during a Spirit International Practice Round

Taylor admits that she had reached the lowest point in her young career, “I actually wanted to give up golf.  I worked so hard for this, but why didn’t I make it?” she asks rhetorically.   “I just wanted to give up.  I didn’t want to be on the LPGA tour; it’s just too tiring …working hard is not everything apparently.”

She then shares with me that she dwelled on the disappointment for weeks afterward.  It affected her daily life as she stopped eating regularly.  She did not touch her clubs for several weeks either.

After a brief moment of silence, Taylor then cites her mother Sunny as being the inspirational person in her life at that point.  “I talked to my mom about it – why don’t I just not be a tour pro and do something else; be a teaching pro or coaching at college level?”

It was this family support that helped Taylor regroup and refocus her efforts. She credits her mother as being very encouraging, prompting her to think about trying the professional tour for a few more years before making a more permanent decision.

Taylor took the advice to heart and rededicated herself to achieving her primary goal of making it to the LPGA next season.  She has conditional membership status on the developmental tour (Symetra) and is eligible to participate in 14 of their Tour events.  With a good season, she could earn her way onto the LPGA.

She has committed to playing her first event at the IOA Championship tournament hosted by the Morongo Golf Club in Beaumont, California.  She is also planning on trying to Monday qualify for some of the LPGA events – the events that coincide geographically with the Symetra Tour schedule.  She has also added the CP Canadian Women’s Open and the Portland Classic to her schedule as two LPGA events that she will try to qualify for.

On the day that I met Taylor for our sit down interview, it becomes very apparent that she is very focused and dedicated in the pursuit of her goals.

Her typical day starts at 6 am with a morning gym session where she undertakes a TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) developed program focusing on flexibility, stability and strength training.  Her workouts end with a cardio session as she hits the spin bikes.

Taylor Kim practice womens golf interview symetra tourAn 18-hole practice round at Northview Golf & Country Club – the one time home of the PGA Tour’s Air Canada Championship follows her gym sessions.  Afterward, she retires to the practice areas to work on her short game and her putting, with another 3 hours of practice.

Chief among her fitness and conditioning goals is maintaining her flexibility and stability while strengthening her core muscles in an effort to gain a little bit more distance on her tee shots.

She is not short off of the tee, explaining that she hits her tee shots approximately 250-260 yards regularly with her driver.  She is after a few more yards so that with better-placed tee shots, she can approach the greens with more lofted clubs to improve her scoring opportunities.

As my sit down interview with Taylor draws to a close, I find myself very impressed with her.  Not only is she dedicated and focused, she also brings a level of commitment in pursuit of her goals that is not often seen in people so young.

She has already faced some major adversity in her professional career and has come through the other side. There is a steely resolve and quiet confidence in her.

But, then again, I think about this newer generation of young LPGA stars such as her good friend Brooke Henderson, and of course players like Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, and Lexi Thompson that are all under the age of 23.   They have all enjoyed success at young ages – a product no doubt of their own work ethic, resolve and dedication to their games.

Like many of the women on the LPGA and in golf generally, Taylor is a good role model for the young girls of today.  Seeing her firsthand working hard to achieve her goals, I would not bet against her teeing it up on the LPGA in the not too distant future.


 

Douglas Jay Womens Golf WriterDouglas Jay 🇨🇦, is a single digit handicap golfer who grew up playing hockey in winter and golf in the summer. After graduating from University of British Columbia and Capilano University, he is now a professional in Local Government and Administration.

Douglas recommends Predator Ridge G.C. and Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia as his ‘bucket list’ Canadian courses.

Follow Douglas Jay online on Instagram and Twitter.

Image credits: Captioned photos from Spirit Golf Association. Other images: Simon Kim and author.