Co-written by Sports Illustrated’s Alan Shipnuck, Christina Kim’s new confessional book, Swinging From My Heels, offers an entertaining, candid and salty look at her life on the LPGA Tour. As she traverses the world playing golf, she documents her journey during the 2009 season — a pivotal coming-of-age year for her — with colorful anecdotes. By now, you’ve probably already read the tantalizing excerpts on sex and lesbians on the LPGA tour (see here or here). Oh, but there’s more!
In the first practice round with a new caddie, Andy, at the British Open, he wondered if she was physically okay because she was hitting the ball so awfully.
“Are you tight,” he asked.
“I’m Asian, of course I’m tight. Take that any way you like.”
Well, that definitely caught me off-guard. I’m still not sure how to take it. Moving on! Aside from the tits, Tanqueray and tonic, Christina tells a story of personal growth filled with made-for-TV-Rudy-esque moments to the tough realities of not just being a professional golfer but a 25-year-old woman.
This evening (Tuesday) I’ll be doing a video chat with Christina to discuss her book, life, etc. So if you have any questions, please drop them below. Oh, and, before I leave you with some of my favorite excerpts — ranging from Lorena Ochoa to the never-ending controversy of the Korean tsunami to the nude shoot for ESPN The Magazine — you can purchase Swinging From My Heels here.
On what the ladies really chat about during tournaments:
I’m sure the average golf fan would be shocked to know how much we talk about sex during tournament rounds, given that a lot of girls are not getting much action. Once I was paired with a good friend who regaled me with stories from this raunchy book she was reading, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, in which a real-life cad recounts his various sexual misadventures. All of the fans who saw us in rapt conversation probably assumed we were discussing the finer points of Mickey Wright’s swing or Alister MacKenzie’s bunkering, but it was naughty sex talk the whole time.
On Lorena Ochoa who once got her drunk (see here for what Christina wrote about Lorena’s imminent retirement):
[Lorena] is the sweetest, kindest most giving person walking the earth. Any positive word you can use to describe a human being, that would be Lorena Ochoa. She’s got that inner light. I think she’s been touched by God. Honestly, I’m surprised she hasn’t been canonized yet…but Lorena has a mischievous side that few people see. I got my first taste of it at the 1999 Mexican Women’s Amateur. We had repaired to the clubhouse to celebrate her victory when Lorena and a group of other players brought me a michelada. It was so tangy and fizzy and delicious I had two or three more. What I didn’t know is that beer is the active ingredient, along with lime juice and salt. So I like to say that when I was 15 Lorena Ochoa got me drunk off my ass.
On the relationship of an LPGA lesbian couple:
The greatest couple I’ve ever known, of any orientation, is a pair of LPGA players. There are so sweet and loving with each other and everyone I know admires what they have and we all wish we could be as happy in our romantic lives. Both of these players have enjoyed very successful careers. In this age of Ellen DeGeneres and Rachel Maddow, it’s easy to say they should’ve come out a long time ago; they would be terrific role models to a lot of people…
On the Korean work ethic and the perception of Koreans on the LPGA:
I’m not sure what it is about being in Korea that inspires self-improvement. It must be something cultural — everyone over there works so hard and takes such pride in their craft, whether it’s a shoe shiner or manicurist or bellhop. I wish American golf fans and sportswriters could spend more time in Korea to get a better understanding of the country that continues to change the face of the LPGA. There are so many misconceptions and misunderstandings, and it’s been that way for far too long. By the time I reached the LPGA Tour, the stereotype of the emotionless Korean golfer with an overbearing father was already an enduring cliche.
No doubt there are still some over-the-top Korean fathers who exploit their daughters’ cultural deference by pushing them too hard…but there are plenty of American girls with big, round eyes whose parents are a little too push or clasutrophobic and I’ve seen their ranks increase in recent years as the money has gotten bigger and bigger. Oh, and here’s one thing that every player is very aware of but most fans don’t know: The LPGA’s biggest revenue stream is from Korean TV networks paying for the rights to broadcast our tournaments in Korea. So the next time a fan grouses that the Koreans are killing the LPGA, I hope someone will point out that, in this economy, it is Korean money that is keeping the tour afloat.
On her first shank in competition at the Evian Masters:
I hit a good drive and had ninety-four yards to the flag, a perfect yardage for my 54-degree wedge. I felt good over the ball, but then, well, I’m not exactly sure what happened. All I know is that I hit a dead shank, my ball dribbling straight right into a grove of trees at a 90-degree angle from what I was aiming. As confirmation of the shank my ball event left a smudge on the club’s hosel, like the mark of the beast on a sinner’s forehead. I was so shocked I could barely exhale…the shank is the most feared shot in golf. It is not merely bad execution or a bad result. It is a total, complete breakdown, a shot so horrid an unexpected it induces an almost supernatural fear and loathing in golfers.
On a scary incident during a night out in France:
I was maybe fifty steps out of the club when I heard two sets of footsteps pounding down the pavement. For a woman walking alone at night, that’s a very startling sound. I turned around and coming at me where two men, one of whom was the Moroccan guy from the dance floor. He was like, “You no dance with me? Why not?” My heart started to race a bit but, trying to act composed, I just laughed off his remark. Then he tried to put his arm around me. I shrugged it off without really acknowledging him. Guys like that get off if you show them you’re uncomfortable. He tried to put him arm around me again, and this time I slung it off. By now I could feel the adrenaline flooding my body. It’s funny how heightened your senses are when you feel threatened. I became aware that the Moroccan dude’s friend was jangling a key chain in his pocket, and that’s when I noticed we were standing in front of a parking garage. I wheeled around and began marching toward the club and the guy put his arm around me once again, this time trying to steer me toward the garage. I shoved him violently and yelled, “Fuck off!” and began jogging back toward the club, four-inch heels be damned.
On an epiphany that turned her game around at the British Open:
Standing in the third fairway of Royal Lytham’s I just thought, Why am I trying to be perfect? I’m a funny-looking girl with a homemade swing, so why not just embrace it? Lorena Ochoa doesn’t have a text-book swing. Neither does Nancy Lopez. Or, for that matter, Jim Furyk or Lee Trevino or so many other great players. Here I was playing the holy Open, on the sacred English linksland, with a salty English caddie in quintessential English weather and I was trying to be a perfect American robot making perfect swings. Golf is art, not science. It’s about creating shots, not mindlessly repeating the same swing over and over.
On being teamed up with Michelle Wie at the Solheim Cup matches:
Michelle had played in the opening day’s morning session, halving her match and along the way displaying more emotion than any of us had ever seen out of her….On number one Helen [Alfredsson] chipped in for birdie to steal the hole. Michelle turned to me and said, “That’s fine, that’s what they’re gonna have to do to win a hole.” On the par-5 second Michelle and I had birdie putts but Tania [Elosegui] knocked in a fifteen-footer for eagle to put us two down. Michelle dropped her ball for practice and brushed in her twelve-footer. “I would have made it anyway,” she sniffed. Walking off the green, she added, “They are so going down. We are taking them down.”
I laughed and replied, “Damn, girl, who are you? You sound like me!”
No one enjoyed Michelle’s stellar play more than her mom Bo and father B.J., who were living and dying with every shot. They followed us inside the ropes, as did my parents. It was funny to see them all chatting away in Korean. Michelle and I were both incredibly proud to wear the red, white, and blue, and having a pairing of KAPs — Captain Daniel loved to call us her Korean-American princesses — was a nice reminder of the American melting pot.
On the ESPN The Magazine Body Issue photo shoot:
The shoot took place at a local golf course that was being renovated and was thus deserted. Unfortunately, no one seemed to realize until too late that the chosen setting was flanked by a fairly busy road and the course’s trees and shrubs did not entirely block the view of the three of us. So Sandra, Anna, and I had to step into our robes every time a car or jogger or biker passed by. When the coast was clear, we’d drop trou and get back in place for a flurry of photos. It was, as you might imagine, a bit nerve-racking. So, too, was the fact taht we were not granted control of the images. In the shot my breasts and hoo-ha are smooshed against a golf bag and thus out of sight, but the three of us wouldn’t know how the finished pictures looked until the magazine hit newsstands a month later.