Tokyo 2020

With "Shooting Stars" Behind Her, Hyo Joo Kim Looks to Dazzle in Tokyo

Hyo-Joo Kim KPMG Women's PGA Championship
JOHNS CREEK, GEORGIA - JUNE 26: Kim Hyo-joo of South Korea plays her shot from the second tee during the third round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club on June 26, 2021 in Johns Creek, Georgia. (Photo by Edward M. Pio Roda/Getty Images)
Edward M. Pio Roda/Getty Images

It was 2014 when a 19-year-old Hyo Joo Kim made history after firing a 10-under 61 in the first round of The Amundi Evian Championship, going on to claim the title after defeating Karrie Webb with a birdie on the 72nd hole. When asked what she liked most about the event following her victory, Kim gave a classic teenager's response.

“I can drink a lot of water. (Evian) is expensive in Korea.”

Cut to 7 years later, the soon-to-be 26-year-old has amassed 10 more professional wins across the LPGA and KLPGA Tours since that first major, including the HSBC Women’s World Championship earlier this season in Singapore. She now finds herself as the fourth member of the prestigious Korean women’s Olympic golf team, edging out two-time major winner So Yeon Ryu to join the elite company of Jin Young Ko, In-bee Park, and Sei Young Kim.

Having taken a year off from LPGA Tour competition during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kim flew under the radar to lock up the final Olympic spot for the Korean team. Considering she didn’t make the squad for the 2016 games, she’s well aware of the magnitude of the moment. While it’s nice to realize a lifelong dream, for Kim there comes a duty to continue the tradition of excellence that is so synonymous with Korean golf.

“I’m very proud and honored to represent Republic of Korea in the Olympics, a lifelong dream as an athlete and something I only watched on TV in 2016,” said Kim. “I also feel a sense of responsibility to extend the reputation of women’s golf in Korea by performing well in the Olympics.”

But, there’s an even deeper debt of gratitude to her fans that has propelled Kim to this moment. She credits her fan club “Shooting Star” with helping her succeed on the KLPGA, saying that their support overseas gave her a lot confidence ahead of her return to the LPGA Tour, and, knowing that they will be cheering her on in Tokyo from afar, she is looking to do her best to return the positive energy.

“When I was playing in the KLPGA last year, the fan club Shooting Star and many others cheered me on and helped me win those tournaments,” said Kim. “I definitely got a lot of energy that year before returning to the LPGA.

“As a representative of my country, I want to do my best to cheer up the Korean people, especially during a difficult situation right now with COVID-19. I know my fan club has been anticipating watching me play in the Olympics and I’m thrilled to fulfill not only their wish but also my lifelong dream.”

It is a tall order to carry the weight of a nation on your shoulders on as big of a global stage as the Olympics, but it doesn’t seem to bother Kim. In fact, she’s as happy to be playing for them as they are for her to be competing, and with her fans squarely behind her, she will be shooting for the stars in Tokyo, unable to really miss.

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