"Off the Course" is where we talk to the players, learn about who they are, and get their thoughts about playing the game. From time to time we'll also interview college players about their junior careers and how college golf is different. We welcome your comments and suggestions. E-mail us or call toll free- 888-549-4653.

Hana Kim

Encino, CA

1999 Ė Champion AJGA Ping-Phoenix
Top 5 Ė AJGA Las Vegas
AJGA Canon Cup Ė West Team
Top 16 US Junior Girls
Top 10 Betsy Rawls Championship

College Choice Ė Northwestern University

Tell us how you got started in the game.

Well, my whole family plays, my mom,dad and younger sister. My dad used to store his golf clubs in the backyard, and just one day I was out there swinging the golf club and my mom has pictures of it, and after that, my dad, like, there are no boys in the house, so he decided to make me the boy and took me out to the golf course, the driving range, and gave me lessons, so after that, I kinda didnít have a choice and I started playing.

What age was that?

Five or six. I went out and played my first tournament when I was eight or nine after I got in the game and learned the rules and stuff. I think I shot like 62 for nine holes or something. I won because it was me and my sister out there. There were no other girls, so thatís how I started.

So you had your first tournament when you were nine?

Yeah, I think so. It was the LA City Junior actually

So did you keep on playing tournaments?

Yes, I kept playing junior tournaments for eleven and under, then twelve to fourteen, and then I think when I was fourteen I started playing AJGAís, and then when I was fifteen I played AJGAís and in between when I was at home, I would play in the local tournaments. When I turned sixteen, I was playing a full schedule like for colleges and stuff. There was no down time. So I didnít play any local tournaments and now I just donít play any locals at all.

Do you play any womenís amateur events?

No, Itís just always been that Iíd play against juniors.

As you were growing up, did you have other sports that you played?

Yeah, I played everything. I swam, I was on the swim team. I played basketball, I played soccer. I was in AYSL for years, but I ran away from the ball. And I would catch the ball whenever it came near me; and I was so afraid of the ball, at games I would run away in the other direction! I do have a really bad knee, my left knee, so I couldnít play basketball. I played softball, but that is the same season as golf, so I had to quit softball. I played everything.

So golf pretty much took over at what age, when you really kind of stopped doing everything else?

Probably eleven, twelve.

Did you have any friends to play golf with, or were you pretty much by yourself?

It was me and my sister. Yeah, so it was nice to at least have my sister to play with and it was good back then because I would always beat her. Now itís not so much fun because itís actually tight competition and I lose sometimes. Sheís the AJGA player rep this year.

Thereís something about the golf bug, people call it, why they love the game or why they play it so much, and everybody kind of has their own response to that. What is it with you and golf?

Itís so interesting because it frustrates me more than anything. I can sit there and do a calculus problem for two hours and not get as frustrated as I do on the golf course. But itís also the fact that I played it for so long that when I go out on the course, itís a reflection of who I am and what Iíve become. And itís always taught me a lot. I would be so different right now from who I really am if I didnít play golf.

You hear that expression quite often. What is it that you think golf has done for you?

It puts things in perspective. I think when I was little I had a really bad temper. Thereís nothing more unattractive than a girl with a bad temper. and I had like the worst temper. Itís embarrassing to even talk about it now. My parents always said follow the rules, and play like a sportsman.

Golf reflects on people and shows who they are. I played with this guy once that, he flubbed a chip and he took his wedge and he slammed it in his bag and he broke every club on that side of his bag. Only the three clubs on one side and the putter didnít break. He had to walk in the last three holes. I will never forget that. Golf is the best thing thatís ever happened to me

Some people talk about helping with maturity.

Yeah. Thereís so many examples of when I was little. Ten years back there werenít a lot of junior golfers. When I played, I had to play with the old ladies at the club or the old men and I had to be on my best behavior. I had to learn how to act sophisticated, play by the rules and, you know, please them somehow. They were, of course, judging me. So I was trying to figure out "how do I act in front of like a 90 year old woman?"

Well, letís talk a little bit about your golf game. Just sort of analyze Hana Kimís game for us.

Well, my putting, Iím just, like a constant putter I guess. Iím not a good, Iím not necessarily a good putter. Iím a constant putter and most of the time when I make mistakes itís because I second guess myself. I grew up on bent grass greens. I love bent grass, so when I putt on these Florida Bermuda greens I have a hard time.

Chipping is probably like the part of my game that needs the most work. Chipping, I donít know what it is, but whenever I go out to chip, I can chip for three and four hours at a time but I always want to do the trick shots like flop shots in the trees instead of the chips that Iíll actually use. So I know I need to work on that.

My irons are pretty good. My accuracy is pretty good. I take pride in that.

My driver can usually hit the fairway. Two months ago I got a nine wood. It was humbling to get a nine wood because I did need one, but, you know, ah, I started this summer with just a driver and five wood. Iíve never had a three wood. People told me you should look into a nine wood because I didnít have enough spin on the ball. Itís doing good.

Take us through last summer a little bit. What was your competitive season like?

It was rough. I started out with the Greyhound Tournament. I like didnít break 80 for the tournament! It was freezing. I went there with shorts and tank tops and it was snowing! My sister beat me and it was the first time she beat me in a tournament.

Then I started practicing but I changed something and I completely lost it for like about a month. Then at the Scott Robertson the Wake Forest coach is there and it was the first time she had ever seen me play. I was putting too much pressure on myself. A bunch of coaches started contacting me after July 1st. and I felt like I had to keep validating myself, saying "yes, I really am a good player", but for some reason self-validation has never rung true for me.

So I practiced and practiced and hit hundreds of balls and finally I figured it out. I got my confidence back. So then I went to Las Vegas and got a fifth and then a third at the Mission Hills. Then thereís the Rolex and I went into that thinking okay hopefully I can get something going. That didnít go so well. I was really nervous and starting swinging too fast. Then a top 9 at Betsy Rawls and at the U.S. Girls I get a top 16 and hey, Iím not too bad, you know. I proved it to myself.

Tell us how you prepare for a tournament?

Well, Bob Rotella says that "if you choose to compete, you have to choose to believe you can win." So I never go into a tournament thinking second place is good enough. Iím kinda like Ally McBeel. I live in this fantasy world like "love will come somehow" and in this fantasy world Iíve created for myselfÖI still believe in unicorns, the boogie monster still lives under my bed so for a tournament I donít tell myself Iím going to win this but I do tell myself that Iím going to try and win this because Iíve chosen to compete. But also Iím very analytical. I have no depth perception so I have to pace everything off in a practice round. Itís a must. I jot notes down.

Finally tell us about the Rotella three CísÖcomposure, confidence, and concentration for Hana Kim.

ComposureÖI keep a smiling face because that makes me feel that way. Iím not stoic on the course, Iím yapping all the time.

ConfidenceÖIím confidentÖwe just talked about that.

ConcentrationÖI donít concentrate between shots. So I sing out loud. When I get really nervous you can see me singing out loud. Usually Dave Mathews. Anything to keep me from getting nervous.

Now itís on to college..Northwestern University?

Yes, Northwestern.

Thanks Hana , good luck.

No problem, the pleasure was all mine.