Updated: Jan, 2014
The Facts
Name: Mi Hyun Kim
It's pronounced: Mee h'yun (not hye-un!) kim
English Name: none
Birthday: January 13, 1977
Home City: Inch'on, South Korea
American Home City: Orlando, FL
Rookie Year on LPGA: 1999
LPGA Wins: 8
LPGA Majors: 0 (Best finish: 2nd at 2001 British Open)
Rookie of the year finish: Won in a close race over Akiko Fukushima
Height: 5' 1" (More like 4'11", I think!)
Weight: ~105 lbs.
Family: Won Hee Lee (husband), son; One brother, one sister (?)
Best score: 62
Best Scoring Average for a year: 70.48 (2004)
Best Season money total: $1,332,274 (2006)
Best Season Money Position: 4th (2002, 2007)
Most Top Tens/Season: 15 (2004)
2014 LPGA Status: Category 1; Retired
Post-season awards: 1999 Rookie of the Year
Strong Statistic: Birdies; Putting
Nicknames: Peanut; Super Peanut (because, like a Peanut, she's compact but strong); Kimmie, Mighty Mini
Other Sports: Swimming, Snowboarding
Hobbies: Shopping, playing pool, playing piano, collecting perfume bottles (!)
Sponsors: KTF (chief sponsor); Honma (woods, irons); Kim Young Joo Golf (sportswear); Allianz
Why is she a Seoul Sister: Because despite her small size, she is plucky, hits the ball a long way, and wins!
How's her English?: Pretty good, but she is shy and uses it sparingly.
Best part of her game: Her use of fairway woods is unique: she can literally hit them almost any distance by slightly varying her swing length. She is also a great putter.
Needs to work on: She needs to get more confident when she gets into contention.
Distinguishing physical characteristic: her height. She says she is 5' 1", but looks even smaller.
What's cool about her: She has the coolest drive in the game; her club is practically pointing straight down at the top of her swing. She has tons of stuffed animal head covers. Her distance control with woods is legendary. Fantastic short game (she's short, so she's closer to her work!).
Cool possible headlines: 'Peanut Shells Field!'.
If she were a Rat Packer, she'd be: Sammy Davis, Jr. - the small one with loads of talent.
 
 
Video Greetings
Mi Hyun introduces herself!!
Mi Hyun is 'Living on Tulsa Time'
Equipment
Equipment breakdown:
Driver: Honma (sponsor)
3, 5, 7, 9 Woods: Honma (sponsor)
Irons (4 - PW): Honma (sponsor)
Wedges: Cleveland
Putter: Gauge Design putter, M2 Red insert
Ball: Titleist Pro-V1
Bio

Like Se Ri Pak, Mi Hyun started golfing late, at age 11. Originally she wanted to be a swimmer, but she just wasn't big enough to compete on a national level. Looking around for another sport she could be competitive in, she found golf, and before long became pretty good. Her father ran a shoe company, but like Se Ri, she was more from the middle class, unlike most of the girls she would compete against. As his daughter became one of the best amateur golfers in Korea, he dedicated more of the family resources to helping her out. He was able to convince a Seoul Country Club to allow her to become a member early on, which gave her a chance she might not have otherwise have had to practice on a real course.

Mi Hyun and Se Ri always seemed tied by destiny. They ran into each other a lot during their amateur years, as they became two of the most winning players of their time. They were both from the same economic class. They were almost the same age, although Mi Hyun is a little older. And they both turned pro the same year: 1996. For these reasons, they were not best of friends. There are rumors that Mi Hyun did not treat Se Ri very well at first, and that Se Ri returned the favor when Mi Hyun joined the LPGA. I think these are just nasty tabloid stories; how can the papers know this? But I do believe they were not good friends. Fierce rivals rarely are.

Mi Hyun was actually the first of the two to win on the pro circuit. By age 22, in fact, she had won 9 times on the KLPGA, and 15 times overall including amateur events. But after a few years, Se Ri got her Samsung sponsorship and moved to the US. Then she had her breakthrough season, and suddenly, Mi Hyun was totally overshadowed by her rival. Yet even when Se Ri returned to Korea in the Fall of 1998, Mi Hyun was invited to the ceremonies and can be seen in those pictures sitting near Se Ri.

Mi Hyun decided to try the LPGA as well. But she did not have the benefit of a big sponsorship, so she could not get a big name coach. She tied for 12th at Q School in 1998 and was on her way. In 1999, her rookie year, she would travel from tournament to tournament in a van with her parents. To save money, they would stay in economy motels and eat in their room. A documentary of the LPGA aired in Korea in 1999, and showed Peanut's plight. It also, unfairly, showed Se Ri staying in a nice hotel and eating lobster. The result was that Mi Hyun overnight became more popular than Se Ri, who was now perceived as 'spoiled'. Of course, they didn't show Se Ri during the times she was taking a bus to tournaments! Another result of the documentary was that a sponsor stepped forward for Mi Hyun and gave her enough money to live more comfortably. Things also improved financially when Mi Hyun started doing well after a rough start in her first few tournaments. Akiko Fukushima got off to a strong start her rookie year and took the lead in the Rookie of the Year standings, but Mi Hyun kept getting better, and finally won twice to edge Akiko for the honors. For the second straight year, a Korean had won the award.

The tiny but plucky Mi Hyun Kim has continued to be a fan favorite on both sides of the Pacific. With her diminutive size, it's astonishing that she can hit the ball at times 265 - 270 yards. Pound for pound, she may be the longest driver in all of golf (Sergio Garcia might be close). She won again in 2000, but victories eluded her in 2001. She did finish second many times. Perhaps the most heart breaking result was in the British Open, where she was perfectly poised to win her first Major until her rival Se Ri Pak came out of nowhere to steal the title. At least the rumor is that they are getting along better. Supposedly Se Ri gave Mi Hyun a birthday present at the start of the 2001 season, and Peanut snuck out of a shared lunch at the British Open to do an interview when it looked like she would win the title, so as not to hurt Se Ri's feelings, who at the time was not seemingly in contention.

Mi Hyun worked hard in the off season, overcoming an unusual (for Koreans) aversion to practice (she had even bought a sports car that was too small to hold her clubs so she wouldn't even be tempted to go to the driving range!). The work paid off: she won twice in 2002, and had two more great chances to win besides that. In all, she ended up breaking a million in earnings for the first time, and finished a career best 4th on the money list.

Mi Hyun got a new club sponsorship and clothing deal in 2003, but once again, victories eluded her. This time, however, she was not even coming close to winning, unlike in 2001, and as a result she had her worst LPGA season yet, finishing 20th on the money list. Surprisingly, her putting was the chief culprit: she had so much trouble with it that at times she even resorted to using a bizarre, super small-headed ('stubby') practice putter in competition.

Between the 2003 and 2004 seasons, Mi Hyun rededicated herself to her game. She traveled to Thailand and participated in an extremely rigorous training program for several weeks. This program basically involved lots of working out, lots of golf practice, and little else. It paid great dividends in the 2004 season. Although she was not able to win an event, she chalked up a career best 15 top tens during the year, third best in the league and tops among the Korean players in 2004. She earned nearly a million dollars, the most money anyone ever made on tour without winning an event, and finished 7th on the money list. All indications were that 2005 would be a great season.

But in fact, 2005 was one of her weakest seasons since joining the LPGA. She did manage 9 top tens, but even that was her second lowest total since joining the league. She had a couple of chances to collect her elusive sixth win, but could not do it. She wound up 23rd on the money list, her worst ever finish. Her slump was not as bad as other Korean stars Grace Park and Se Ri Pak in 2005, but it was a slump all the same.

Nonetheless, at the end of the year, her primary sponsor KTF decided to sign her up for another three years, albeit at a significantly reduced rate from the previous contract. With her sponsorship taken care of, Kimmie could focus on returning to the top ten in 2006, and maybe even the winner's circle.

After another off season working very hard, Kimmie returned with new vigor in 2006. She started playing well almost immediately, getting into contention at her third tournament of the year and winding up fourth. But it wasn't until late April that she had another great opportunity to win. That chance came at the Ginn Clubs and Resorts Open, a new event on the schedule with a huge purse. Because of the money, almost every top golfer in the world was in attendance. But after three rounds, it was Mi Hyun who held the lead by three shots after her nearest competitor double bogied the final hole of the round. In the last round, she played well, but was seriously pressured by the two hottest golfers of the season, Karrie Webb and Lorena Ochoa. But every time it looked like Kimmie would be caught, she made another clutch shot to reestablish control. Thus, Mi Hyun ended up winning the tournament, her first victory in nearly four years. She later revealed that she had become an aunt for the first time that same week, and that she had a new boyfriend who flew out just to see her that weekend. Everything was coming up roses for the little champion.

And things continued to go well for her throughout the season. At the LPGA Championship, she contended all week, ending up third, just a shot out of the playoff. She also added another win to her resume in July, when she caught Natalie Gulbis at the Jamie Farr by making up a four shot deficit, then beat her in a playoff three holes later by sinking a 25 foot birdie putt. The win got her above the million dollar mark for season's earnings.

Kimmie ended the year by leading the Korean team in the annual Kyoraku Cup to a resounding victory over the Japanese squad.

Kimmie had a strong season in 2007. She won her 8th career tournament in a playoff against Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, notched a top ten at the US Women's Open, nearly won in Rochester and made it to the semifinals of the World Match Play, where she lost to eventual winner Seon Hwa Lee. She also had a remarkable year in other ways. After winning the SemGroup Championship, she donated nearly half her winnings, $100,000, to aid the victims of the tornado in Greensburg, Kansas, despite not knowing anyone affected by the tragedy. Once again, she showed that she has one of the biggest hearts in the league.

Kimmie did not win again in 2007 after SemGroup, but still had a number of good tournaments, notably the HSBC Match Play, where she finished third. At the end of the year, despite struggling with numerous injuries, she captained the Korean Kyoraku Cup team, which unfortunately lost in a tiebreaker to the Japanese squad. In December, she had knee surgery, which she hoped would allow her to have a much more healthy 2008.

Alas, the knee did not heal as quickly as Kimmie was hoping, and she was forced to wear a knee brace for much of 2008. Her results were not all that great, although she still managed to contend a few times, notably at the Corning Classic, where she finished tied for third, and at the US Women's Open, where she had a great chance to win her first ever Major before Inbee Park ran away with the title on Sunday.

But Kimmie was bigger in the Korean media than ever, thanks to the announcement of her engagement to be married at the end of the year. Her fiancé was a big name, too: Korean judo star Won Hee Lee, who won a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and who was five years Kimmie's junior. When Lee showed up at the LPGA Championship to root his fiancee on, the Korean press went wild; it was the first time they had appeared in public together. The wedding took place in mid-December, 2008, and none other than Se Ri Pak caught the bouquet! Congratulations to the happy couple, who will make the biggest pairing of Korean star athletes since Hee-Won Han hooked up with baseball pitcher Hyuk Son back in 2003.

At the start of the 2009 season, Kimmie announced that she was pregnant with her first child! She only played until June, then took the rest of the year off. In November, she gave birth to her son. She renewed her golf career at the 2010 Kia Classic in March. But she had literally not practiced at all during the Winter, and her results were by far the worst of her career. She finished 85th on the money list, but fortunately maintained decent status thanks to previous success on tour.

She had a notably better season in 2011. She had a top ten at the WalMart tournament in September and made over $150,000 during the year to easily return to full status on tour.

Unfortunately, in 2012, Mi Hyun suffered several injuries resulting in part from her unorthodox swing. Doctors were unable to get her back to 100% despite repeated efforts. Reluctantly, after being unable to play all season, she decided to retire. She was given a special exemption to play in the Hana Bank tournament in Korea for the final time, then officially called it a day. She finished her career with 8 LPGA wins and more than 100 top tens.

Kim is not done with golf. She has opened a string of Mi Hyun Kim golf academies in Korea, and plans on nurturing the next generations of golfing talent in that country. We'll certainly miss you, Mi Hyun! Good luck in the future!