Mi Hyun Kim’s last appearance in an LPGA event promises to be an emotional one.
Kim, 35, who is playing the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship on a sponsor invite in her last event before retirement this week, is revered in South Korea as one of the original “Seoul sisters” who helped start the Korean wave of success in the LPGA. At 5 feet 1, Kim is affectionately known as “Peanut” and “Kimmy” in LPGA circles.
“Everyone must be surprised to hear about my retirement,” Kim said Thursday in a news conference at the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship. “Many people said that I’ll cry when I announce my retirement, but I’m just hopeful for my future.”
Kim was the LPGA's Rookie of the Year in 1999 and went on to to win eight LPGA titles. For most of the last three years, Kim has been plagued by ankle and knee injuries. She underwent ankle and knee surgery earlier this year and isn’t expected to be full strength when she plays this week. She plans to spend the next chapter of her life devoted to her family and running her own golf academy. Kim married Won Hee Lee, a former Olympic gold medalist in judo, in 2008. She played while pregnant in ’09 and gave birth to her first child late that year.
“Last year, I played with pain,” Kim said. “I have a high competitive spirit. But in recent years, I didn’t have such a feeling anymore. I just have fun with golf.”
Kim says she is a long shot to win this week, but if she does, she will donate all her winnings to charity.