Kim Si-Woo is rewriting the history of Korean men's golf.
Let’s hear the story of Kim Si-Woo, who is realizing his dreams with poise and confidence.
There are many titles that come before your name, including the youngest champion, the first-ever Asian champion, and the hope of Korean men's golf. These titles inform what you have accomplished so far and in turn convey what people hope you will achieve in the future. What do you think when people call you by such titles?
Being called by such titles pleases me when I am doing well on the golf course. However, when I am not doing well, such titles make me feel uncomfortable, and they also really put the pressure on. I've gotten accustomed to the weight of such titles, but it’s still not easy for me to be completely free from it. The important thing is to be good at what I need to do. I keep practicing with this mindset. I keep myself in check so that such titles do not sway me.
2017 has been a dynamic year for you. There were moments when you didn’t yield good results, but you proved to be the ace of Korean men’s golf, having become the youngest champion in the history of Korean men's golf. How do you think you will remember this year?
Last year, I performed far better than I expected. So, I had high expectations for this year, and indeed I aimed high. But, things didn’t quite work out as I hoped. Earlier this year, I had a tough time because I failed to make the cut four consecutive times due to my constant back injury. Then, once I recovered from the injury, I won the Players Championship, which is known as the "Fifth Major." There of course were difficult moments and I certainly learned some things from those experiences. When I suffered an injury, I clearly realized that I must take good care of myself as a golfer. I think l will be able to do a better job of preparing for the upcoming season this winter than last winter. I learned a lot, and scored a precious win. So, I think this year has been a good one for me.
In the Presidents Cup which took place on the 2nd, you recorded one win and two losses. This was particularly welcome news because the win was the first-ever win the International team scored over the US team. Although the International team briefly allowed the US team to take the lead on the 14th hole, the International eventually sealed a win on the 18th, the final hole. The two teams were in a dead heat, and your resolve in leading the International team was very impressive. Tell us about your attitude when playing that round of golf.
Watching Presidents Cup matches last year, I really wished I could attend the competition one day. And with some luck, I was able to make the roster. I recall I had a great fun throughout the competition. It was a team competition and I was able to play with other players in a relaxed state of mind while having fun. Being on the same team with great players and also competing with them let me enjoy the rounds I played. I heard that I looked like I was in a good mood, and in fact, I really was. I hit quite a few good shots as well.
I heard people who came to watch you play cheered for you singing the Si-Woo song aloud. How did it feel to have so many people were rooting for you?
Last year was my first year as a pro. At the time, not many people recognized me. But, now, there are a lot of people who recognize me. Hearing the song they wrote themselves moved me greatly, and I’m very thankful to them for that. My fans’ support gives me great strength. I get energy from them. They give me a clear reason for me to work harder in the future.
It's been two years since you made your PGA debut, and you have scored two victories in the meantime. All athletes dream of the moment they become the champion. This may be a cliché question, but how does it feel to win?
When I scored my first win, I couldn’t believe it actually happened; I remember I told myself, “Did I really just become the champion?”. It was the same with my second win, in the Players Championship; that I won such a big tournament felt like a dream. It feels like I am still dreaming now, despite it being a while since that championship. It's because I'm well aware that this is not an easy feat. I didn’t expect myself to win this soon. I am literally very happy at the moment. I hope to score more wins in the future.
Behind the trophies you earned, there must have been physical and mental efforts you made to practice persistently. Tell us what you think is the most important thing when it comes to your practice.
When the environment of your practice changes, the subject of your practice also changes. Prior to joining the PGA Tour, I practiced in South Korea. However, at the time, I chiefly focused on hitting the ball correctly because the golf course was small, and it was the rainy season. After going to the US, I realized that while hitting the ball correctly is important, being able to hit a long drive is no less important for a golfer. Within the past two years, the game has developed to such an extent that a driving distance of 300 to 310 yards is now considered sub-par. That’s why I’m now focusing on increase my driving distance and building up my body. The subject of practice may vary by season, but the rule that I should practice persistently doesn’t change.
People commonly cite your calmness as one of your strengths. I think that your calmness may be your innate trait, but it also can be a result of ceaseless training. What are you like as a person?
I've been hot-blooded since I was a kid. I often threw a temper tantrum when I didn't yield good results. So, my parents worried a lot about it. Playing golf requires the opposite of said disposition, poise. So, my parents chastised me and told me to stay collected whenever I displayed my temper. I consciously think that I should keep myself collected as well. Of course, there are many times I fail to do so, but I think I’m getting at it. In other words, I’m not a calm person but a person who tries to stay calm. If you have the will, you can change yourself. If you change yourself, you can change the situation.
What adjective do you want to describe you?
Adjectives and modifiers are all embarrassing. I'm a golfer, so I think hearing I make good swings or I’m a good player would make me feel good.
You still have a long way to go. When is the most frightening moment for you? I’m also curious as to what you would think at such a moment.
When the season starts, all the player rankings so far vanish and get reset. In other words, you start at zero. And there is a kind of uneasiness that I feel at such a point. The beginning of the season puts the most pressure on me because a good start usually enables you to better round off your season in the latter part of the season. There is such a thing called the sophomore jinx, which refers to an instance when you are prone to slumps in your second year due to the pressure that you feel in your second. What can shake off your anxiety is not thought, but practice. I’m now in my third year as a pro. The time when I felt particularly uneasy seems to have now passed. I think I may be able to yield better results than the last two years if I continue to practice the way I’ve been doing.
What people who immerse themselves in something and see the fruition of the efforts have in common is that they have a strong belief in themselves. Do you believe you can achieve something on your own? Also, please tell us about the driving force behind the belief.
Just because you’re not seeing results at the moment doesn’t mean the effort you are making is meaningless. I keep doing what I’m doing for that reason. There are of course times when I waver because of the visible results that I may not be seeing at the moment. That was the case when I first started living in the US. The reality of my American life weighed so heavily on me that it was overwhelming. Not being able to communicate properly in English, I had a really difficult time. My parents constantly supported me throughout that time. I think their trust in me was what led me to believe in myself.
What is your favorite saying?
There are many opportunities that have yet to come. That’s what my father said to me while comforting me when I was nervous one day. It was probably when I was 18 years old. I started feeling that I was treading water as I had not been yielding good results for an extended period of time. It was a really insufferable pain to me. At the time, my father told me, “You’re still 18 and young. You have a long future ahead of you. There are many opportunities that have yet to come." Those words by him comforted me greatly. If you do not want opportunities, you must focus on what you have to do right now. You can do nothing about what you have already missed. What’s important is now.
In April, you played your first Masters, and there you invited three promising young golfers. Even at this moment, many young golfers are fostering their dreams with you as their role model. Lee Kyu-Min, who is attending this installment of THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES, recently told that you are his role model and that he hopes to emulate you. This must remind you of old memories.
I too grew up watching senior players such as Choi Kyung-Ju and other national team players, and practicing together with them was always something special. I nurtured my dreams while watching my seniors, and it feels bizarre that there are now young players who are nurturing their own dreams while watching me. Such attention puts some pressure on me, but at the same time I feel compelled to work harder because of it. If the opportunity arises, I would like to tell them about my experiences on the PGA Tour as a senior golfer. As there are not many Korean players on the PGA Tour, I’m very willing to take good care of them when they've made it here. Among them, they are also golfers junior to me who I’ve known for more than 10 years from junior competitions since I was a kid. They are good golfers. They seem to be better than when I was their age. I’m watching them with high expectations.
I heard that you realized that Korean golfers could also win major tournaments after watching golfer Choi Kyung-Ju win a professional PGA tournament when you were a kid. A person who has finally realized their dreams can in turn encourage others and their dreams. What kind of dream do you want your juniors to build watching you play?
Every player's dream is to be a champion. I hope that rather than questioning themselves, “Can I do this?” they will have a belief in themselves, telling themselves, “I can do it.”
THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES
You are attending THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES soon. You must feel different than usual because this is the first-ever PGA Tour tournament taking place in Korea.
As a member of the organization, I really want to win this tournament. I want to yield good results, I crave it greatly. I started this season with CIMB Classic, and I've been in good condition since. My shot performance is also good at the moment. I’ve been practicing focusing mainly on short games, and I will prepare well during the short period of time leading up to the tournament to do my best and perform well.
What do you think Korea's first PGA tournament means for Korean golfers?
To my knowledge, there is no longer any way to enter the PGA Tour since the demise of Q School PGA. Now, golfers can make it to the PGA Tour after 2-3 years of hard work on the Web.com or their world rankings. However, winning this tournament gives them a straight ticket to the PGA Tour. It’s a great opportunity. So, I think this is a meaningful competition not only for Korean players, but also for players from other countries.
Junior golfer Lee Kyu-Min cites you as his role model and you cite pro golfer Choi Kyung-Ju as your role model. You are going to play together with these two players in THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES.
I’m excited. I’m delighted to play in the same competition as the senior player who encouraged my dreams for the PGA Tour and a promising young player. I hope all three of us do well. I look forward to playing more with them in the future.
I am dreaming of winning.
My efforts now fail.
I believe in it.
A new season has begun. Do you have anything you specifically aim to achieve this season?
My back had not been in good shape for about two months since my victory earlier this year. In the second half of the year, I focused on rehabilitation and keeping myself in shape preferentially over practice. Injuries and bad runs of form are problems that always follow athletes. My injury is almost fully healed now, but I’m still keeping myself alert. I hope that next year will be a year when I will achieve what I've been aiming to without any injuries.
You have grown into a golfer who represents Korean from being the country's most promising junior golfer. Your goal in 2011 was to advance to the PGA Tour, and it has now been achieved. What are your goals today?
I had been dreaming of joining the PGA Tour for a long time, and now that I've made it here, its reality looms large. In fact, I had a hard time keeping my seed alone, but I got a little bit of room in my mind when I won my first championship. I think I won two champions as a result of working hard every day without setting my goals too high. I believe I would be able to win a third or even a fourth if I kept practicing hard. I want to win all four major championships one day. To do so, I need more experience and more preparation. There are many opportunities that have yet to come.
Even at this moment, many people are making their own efforts in their respective areas to make their dreams come true. Do you have any message of support for those people as a person who has realized his dreams through constant efforts and is still working hard to achieve his dreams?
There are times when you just cannot see fruition however hard you work for your dreams. This also applies to me. Even when I had overcome a slump, another slump came. And this will continue to happen. I believe that good opportunities will come if you don’t despair and keep working hard with a belief that everything will work out eventually. I hope our present dreams will become the reality of the future.