Christina Kim is rarely lacking for attention, but she admits she hasn't been deluged with inquiries about her golf game the last few months.
"Honestly, I get more questions about my book," Kim said after shooting 2-under par 70 in the third round of the LPGA Championship on Saturday. "The only thing people ask about my game is what's wrong with it."
Oh yes, the book. In April, Kim released "Swinging from My Heels: Confessions of an LPGA Star." Co-written with Alan Shipnuck, the book provides a behind-the-scenes account of the 2009 tour. Kim wrote about the real lives of the women golfers, complete with the sex and drama, drawing comparisons to Jim Bouton's landmark baseball diary, "Ball Four."
Perhaps it's a coincidence, but Kim has suffered through the worst year of her eight-year career since the book came out. No doubt, the book has been something of a distraction. When you write that one unnamed agent slept with LPGA players with a combined 18 major championships ("Hey, he tied Jack Nicklaus!"), you create a bit of a stir.
"The book changed my life for the better," said Kim, who is 2-over heading into today's final round. "It's a part of me now. It's in print, so that means it's always going to be out there. I don't regret a single word of it. A couple of typos, but other than that "
You almost forget how Kim, a Korean-American from California, made her name in the first place. She has enormous talent. Kim turned pro at 18 in 2003. In her first tournament, she shot a 62. She finished in the Top 20 and won a tournament in 2004 and '05. She was the youngest LPGA player ever to reach $1 million in career winnings.
But Kim, 26, hasn't won a tournament in five years. She hasn't finished better than 24th in nine events this season and ranks 59th overall, which would be the worst ranking of her pro career. So she was happy to be talking about her game again after playing some of her best golf of the season.
"Very, very much so," Kim said. "I feel like I'm in a much better place now than I was in most other parts of the year. I've got some good stuff in my hands. I switched putters Wednesday afternoon."
Kim wears some good stuff, too. She's one of the flashiest dressers on tour, famous for bold colors and snappy headgear. She recently began wearing a Fedora, a nod to the old Rat Pack singers she admires. Kim had a coral shirt with black and white stripes. She had two pair of sunglasses wrapped around her Fedora, one for long shots and one for putts. Her hair was in pigtails -- a nice complement to the long ponytail of her new caddie, Brian Funk. Kim hired Funk two weeks ago after splitting with her previous looper. Funk lives in Rochester, which was an added bonus this week.
"Brian and I started working together last week," Kim said. "He's been instrumental in me feeling like I'm coming back. He's got a good attitude, always keeps smiling. He's great around the greens, which I feel I need. I just adore him. He's a great guy and he keeps me calm out there."
Funk's wife, Theresa, followed Kim's group, her two little girls in tow. Brian blew kisses to the girls. Kim came over to chat and meet them. Kim is constantly stopping to talk with fans or fellow players. She stopped to embrace one of her fellow players when their paths crossed on the front nine. If the tour kept hugging stats, she's be on top.
Theresa Funk, who is a teacher, doesn't follow golf all that closely. She saw a copy of Kim's book after Brian became her caddie. She admits she was a bit apprehensive at first, seeing the photos and some of the, uh, salacious writing.
"But she is really just a kind, sweet person," Theresa said.
Kim makes no apologies. She's on the cover of the latest Ladies Links Fore Golf magazine, with the title: "Christina Kim: Untamed." But let's hope she never gets tamed. The LPGA could use more women like her. She speaks out for the environment. She tells you girls to be fearless. She wants the world to know that LPGA players are real women, not joyless robots.
Watch her after a round, when she meets with the fans outside the scoring tent. Kim knows many of them by name. She stands there signing and giving interviews. "It's OK," she says. "I can multitask. Now, who am I making this out for? Is that Terry with a 'y?' "
She takes special care to make every autograph personal. Kim asks for the person's name. She signs hats, golf balls, programs. Of course, there are numerous copies of her book. Kim seems especially proud whenever "Swinging from My Heels" is presented to her, a blank page open for her signature.
Kim has her critics. Dottie Pepper criticized her fist-pumping and celebrations at last year's Solheim Cup. Pepper said Kim needed to show more respect for the sport. Really?
Half an hour after her round Saturday, Kim was still chatting with her Rochester fans outside the scorer's tent. One young girl looked up at Kim and asked if she could have one of her pair of sunglasses.
"No. Sorry, hon'," Kim said. "Thanks for being brave, though, and asking."