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Anthony Kim was one of golf’s rising stars. In 2008, at the age of only 23, he played a key role in the United States victory at the Ryder Cup. In 2009, he posted a record 11 birdies during a round at the Masters. Then came the injuries and, after surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2012, Anthony Kim disappeared from the PGA Tour. And he’s got a big reason to remain missing.
BL: Let’s start with the days when Anthony Kim was still on the tour. He’s 29 years old today. He should be in the prime of his career. Before he stopped playing, how good do you think he was going to be?
Does he take the money and retire in his 20s and then spend the rest of his life in regret of what might have been?Alan Shipnuck, Sports Illustrated
BL: Kim did have a reputation for working as hard at partying as he did at his golf game. You note that he bought a drop-top Bentley instead of a Ferrari because it had enough seats to accommodate his three buddies. There are reports that he bought a $25,000 bottle of champagne only to spray it on the crowd at a club. Did his lifestyle end up hurting his game?
AS: Well, it hurt his reputation, let's say that. Even before he disappeared he was the most gossiped-about player on the tour, bar none. It was sort of a parlor game among his colleagues — you know, when he would disappear for three months because he supposedly hurt his ankle, you know, was he suspended by the tour for misconduct or substance abuse? There was always this low roar of innuendo and speculation about everything he did. Certainly you've got to assume he didn't quite realize his potential.
BL: Depending on who you ask, Kim has between 10 and 20 million reasons to stay on the couch. Explain his insurance policy and why that’s enough to keep a promising golfer from returning to the course.
[sidebar title="The Other Scottish Vote Is In!" width="630" align="right"]After 260 years, Scotland's Royal And Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews has voted to admit female members.[/sidebar]
AS: A lot of golfers have these private policies against career-ending injury. You know, unlike other sports, they don't have the guaranteed contracts for six years, $120 million. You know, in golf, you have to kill what you eat. You have to go out and earn it.
Players take out these policies. Kim had the foresight or the good advice to take out a big one. You know, I'm pretty sure the number's $18 million, tax free. It sets up this dilemma because if he comes back and plays on the PGA Tour the policy is voided. Does he take the money and retire in his 20s and then spend the rest of his life in regret of what might have been? Or does he come back and try to be the player he was, fail miserably and leave all that money on the table? On the other hand, if he can come back and play at the level that he did, he can make $18 million in a few years.
BL: Anthony Kim was raised by immigrant parents in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. His father pushed his son hard from a young age to become a golfer. And eventually Kim’s parents sent him to live alone in an apartment near more golf courses. He was 16 years old at that time. I wonder, is this a case of a guy that grew disinterested in the game because he was forced to play?
Anthony won this tournament as a junior and [his] dad took the trophy and threw it in the trash because he felt like he should have played better.Alan Shipnuck
AS: Yeah, it could very well be he's just burnt out on the sport and the pressure, which was put on him at a very early age by his dad. Anthony won this tournament as a junior and [his] dad took the trophy and threw it in the trash because he felt like he should have played better. That leaves scar tissue. I think he has a very complicated relationship with the game, and that's part of what he's battling right now.
BL: Alan, I think your story does a great job of presenting a range of possibilities. But what's your best guess? Will Anthony Kim return to the PGA Tour?
AS: The more the time goes by the more doubtful it becomes. You know, personally I'd love to see him come back and try. It would be a huge story. He could be a crossover figure who not only drew in the golf fan but just the casual sports fan. And the back story, you know: "This guy gave up $18 million to chase the dream." I think sports fans would respond to that. Only Anthony can decide that.
This segment aired on September 20, 2014.
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