Tales from Tucson

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Did you know that St. Patrick was born in Britain and not Ireland? That St. Patricks Day is actually a solemn occasion in Ireland, not the beer-swilling affair its become in the States?
 
Were you aware that an Irishman discovered Tucson, Ariz., of all places? Seriously. Hugh OConnor founded it in 1775. Locally he was known as Don Hugo, fought in the Spanish Army and explored for Spain. Stew on those few tidbits as you try to fight off the effects of that fifth pint.
 
The city of surprises, as Tucsons sometimes called, delivered one in particular this past week at the LPGAs season opener. Her name is Christina Kim, and she screamed, laughed, cajoled, moaned, cursed and willed her way onto the golf scene with the kind of verbal fire reminiscent of a young Dottie Pepper.
 
Our television crew strapped a wireless microphone to Kim for the third round. We got more than we could have hoped for. At No. 10, her short-iron shot airborne, Kim barked at the golf ball, Oh thats trash. It finished an inch from the cup.
 
I take that back, she said.
 
And on it went for two thoroughly entertaining days, though some who e-mailed The Golf Channel apparently werent all that amused.
 
Kim turned 19 on Saturday. Her father, Man Kim, caddies for her. On Friday, answering reports that they had clashed during round two, Kim kidded the media with a couple early candidates for quote of the year.
 
My fathers a big baby, she said. Its tough raising parents these days. Hes got a lot of maturing to do.
 
Dad moved from Korea to San Jose, Calif., 20 years ago. Two years ago he quit a Silicon Valley computer job to help his daughter pursue the professional dream. The self-taught amateur serves as coach, caddie and business manager, or as Christina likes to say, Hes my Cocamanager.
 
They prepared for her first season as if they were getting set to scale the Himalayas, visiting 21 LPGA Tour sites, even playing courses in Ohio and New York in the snow!
 
On the course, dad and daughter are constantly discussing putts or target selection on long shots. Those who might be paired with her this season should be forewarned. It never stops. With a smile, she admits, I know I talk too much.
 
Saturday, Kim described her round of 62 as an out-of-body experience, like something otherworldly has taken over me.
 
Sunday she was in the final group with Lori Kane. She birdied the first for a share of the lead. She birdied 2 for the outright lead. Remember, this was her LPGA debut! Not since 1951 and Beverly Hanson had someone prevailed in their very first start.
 
But the birdies gave way to four bogeys and an even-par 70. She tied for fourth, four back of winner Wendy Doolan, who hits it past a lot of guys.
 
I tried living in the moment, but nothing had prepared me for this, said Kim. I psyched myself out.
 
I was terrified, she said of playing in the final group. 'Oh my God, Im playing with Lori Kane,' and 'Oh my God, theres no one behind us.'
 
Someday another young teen may say the same thing about Christina Kim. Keep an eye on her as the year unfolds. If what you see is as captivating as what she says, it could be quite an interesting season.