Lauren Kim was a rookie on the Symetra Tour in 2017 after graduating from Stanford University. In this her first full season on Tour, the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic was her first-ever professional tournament win. In 2015, Kim led the Cardinal to the program’s first National Championship.
I have always marveled at how the longer I play golf, the more I realize the ways in which this sport teaches me about life. Just as golfers birdie some holes and bogey others, so too will life (metaphorically) seem to throw both birdies and bogies—sometimes more bogies, it seems. Nevertheless, with as many life bogies seem to appear, there is always a subsequent birdie waiting.
When I reflect on my win last week in Winter Haven, I am filled with many emotions typically expected out of someone who just won their first professional tournament—excitement, satisfaction, and accomplishment all being at the forefront. After joking with friends about the idea of winning from four back of the lead on Saturday night, I went into Sunday with a relaxed mind and intention to have fun. To some, it seems there should have been a tell-tale sign that “today was meant to be the day”. But, I went through my warm-up just as I would for any other tournament—drank a cup of coffee, ate a salad with some veggies and an egg, and listened to the same playlist as usual. It was not until I had birdied holes three through six to move to 4-under par on the day, that I realized winning might be possible. In my mind, though, there was still work to be done.
I kept pressing; I didn’t know what the winning score would be nor did I have any idea what the rest of the field was doing. Then suddenly, in a whirlwind of shots executed and putts made, I was standing on the 14th tee box at 7-under par on the day, 8-under for the tournament, and in the outright lead. Missing a shot seemed impossible the entire round up to that point, but whether it was nerves or human error, I had to regain control of my wandering mind when I found myself in a green-side bunker on No. 14, scrambling to make par. Still, nothing seemed important enough to take my singular focus off of each shot in front of me. “The present shot is the only one that matters,” was the only thought I remember thinking.
Fast forward to the 18th tee where I knew a good drive would put me in perfect position to make birdie; after two shots, I was pin high with a chance to eagle the hole. Watching that ball disappear made me want to celebrate the round simply for the love of the game because no matter the outcome, I was still beyond thrilled with how I had just played. Figuratively, I had just made a birdie in life.
Amongst all the excited emotion, however, I could not help but feel a deep appreciation for the journey that had allowed me to play the best golf of my life thus far. Six months ago, I would not have believed anyone if they had told me I would win the 2018 Florida’s Natural Charity Classic. When I think about those times—frustration, lack of belief, doubt—it seemed as if I was on life’s bogey train with no sign of stopping. Only through this experience was I able to assess why I was playing the game and what I needed to continue playing competitively. In spite of the struggle, I found a renewed joy and love for the game of golf, which became the theme of Sunday’s round. I figured, why not play for the love of competition? Why not, see how low I can shoot? Why not, have some fun? Where last season I would have found every reason against having the round of my life, in Winter Haven I found every refreshing reason for it.
I suppose last week—more so than being about winning—was about realizing why I could not quite put the clubs away just yet. Maybe professional golf will pan out, or maybe it won’t. Either way, I made a birdie in life last week and hope that before it is time to call it quits, I have shot under par.