Christina Kim is the first to reveal her selfish motives. And she completely understands if the baring of her tortured soul prompts you to say TMI.
“We all have our own personal demons,” Kim said Thursday after an opening-round 66 at the LPGA’s Kingsmill Championship. “I’ve been down to Hades and back is how I feel.”
Kim’s demon is depression, and as countless of us know, directly or indirectly, it can be a chilling, paralyzing and calamitous illness.
A 10-year LPGA veteran, Kim long has emoted like few athletes, for better or worse. She’s won twice on tour, most recently in 2005, and was a clutch player on three United States Solheim Cup teams.
But she never seemed to fulfill her potential, and this year, to be kind, has been awful. Kim, 28, hasn’t finished among the top 45 in any tournament, and prior to Thursday had nearly as many rounds in the 80s (four) as in the 60s (five).
Injuries led to bad golf, which led to frustration and more poor rounds and …
“Just this awful cycle,” Kim said, “and then it affects your personal life. You get short with your friends and the people that you love, your family.”
Two months ago, in a blog of more than 3,200 words — three-plus times as long as this column — Kim detailed her battle with depression and how she nearly came to suicide.
It was April 2011, at the European Nations Cup in Spain, and Kim had endured another troubling round.
“That evening, during a players’ party, held in a beautiful building overlooking the ocean, I went for a walk around,” Kim wrote. “There was loud music, delicious food, wine and champagne flowed freely, and the inescapable sound of laughter. None of that appealed to me in the least. All I wanted was to be alone with my thoughts.
“I walked around the entire building, searching for some solitude, when I came across a corner overlooking the ocean that was not only unoccupied, but was also completely free of anything related to the party. I stood at the corner, gazing down at the Mediterranean, and leaned over. It was quiet, peaceful, and oh how I wanted to be a part of that silence! It was too easy, for me to just step over the wall of the building, as it was only waist high, and plummet two stories into the ocean.”
Only a flurry of calls from her boyfriend and then-caddie, Duncan French, kept her from leaping.
Kim’s words are easy to find online. They are terrifying, poignant and, when describing her “robust flotation devices,” hilarious.
“It was pretty tough to read,” said Jane Park, one of Kim’s closest LPGA friends. “It was tough to see the ups ands downs in her game and in her mood, but I always knew she’d come out on the other side.”
Park, too, has combated depression.
“We leaned on each other,” Park said. “We talked every day. … It helps when you have a friend like that.”
Kim hopes her blog will comfort and encourage others, but “the main reason that I wrote it was to help myself. For me it was very therapeutic. Even for me, as vocal as I am, it’s hard to actually have the words come out of your mouth.”
As Kim referenced in her blog, she is hardly the poster child for depression. Indeed, on the surface, she’s the antithesis: successful, charming and popular, embraced by a loving family.
“She’s just always had such an awesome personality,” said rookie Mo Martin, who’s known Kim since their junior golf days in California. “Completely outgoing. She’s been a blessing for the game, she really moved the LPGA forward and has been quite a character to follow for everybody.”
But that’s the rub with depression. Chemical imbalances can render anyone helpless, angry, hopeless.
“I’ve been just completely floored by the feedback,” Kim said, tearfully thanking strangers who reached out via social media and tour colleagues who responded personally.
Writing wasn’t Kim’s sole treatment. Her doctor prescribed medication that Kim playfully calls “my green little pill.”
The effects were almost immediate. Kim felt better, less burdened, even if she couldn’t quite explain the subsequent dreams that involved a giant turtle with bad teeth and two people in a rhino costume.
Yet prior to Thursday, the impact on her golf was negligible. Kim has missed 11 cuts in 17 events. Her scoring average of 74.48 ranks 128th on tour.
That player was invisible Thursday. Kim’s 5-under-par 66, her best round since an opening 66 at the 2010 Jamie Farr Classic, included seven birdies and two bogeys and leaves her four shots behind Jiyai Shin’s 62.
The last time Kim graced a leaderboard?
“The Mesolithic Era,” she said.
A sixth-place finish at a 2010 LPGA event in Malaysia is Kim’s most recent top-10, but you get the point.
Kim credited Thursday’s round to Kingsmill karma. She tied for second here in 2008, likes the River Course and appreciates the fans.
The day’s only downer: the 4:45 a.m. wake-up call needed for her 7:35 tee time.
“So many wonderful memories,” Kim said. “I can’t help but smile. It’s such a great feeling to be able to smile again. … It may sound totally cliché, but I’m just thankful to have a tee time.”
That contagious smile is visible between the lines of her blog as well.
“Harrowing as it has been to relive the last year and a half of my life,” she wrote, “in doing so, I also feel more cleansed than I have in a very long time. Life is not so bad. In fact, it is grand.”
David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/ teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP