Interview with Lion Kim, an MGoBlog exclusive.

Submitted by Section 1 on March 31st, 2011 at 2:07 PM

[Ed: bump for Masters.]

Tracy Wilcox/Golfweek

For the last year and a half, one of the most exciting collegiate golfers in the Big Ten Conference has been Michigan Golf Team captain Lion Kim. In a little more than a week, Lion Kim is going to be, for at least for the month of April of 2011, the most famous Michigan athlete on Earth: as the reigning United States Amateur Public Links champion, Lion has been invited to play in the 2011 Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club. He will be watched by a billion viewers on the Masters' worldwide telecast, and untold millions in his birthplace of South Korea.

Lion was born in Seoul, Korea and emigrated to the United States with his parents when he was barely a year old, first living in New Jersey where his father operated a New York area business, and then to Lake Mary, Fla., where he worked seriously on his competitive golf game before accepting a golf scholarship to the University of Michigan.

In the summer of 2009, the Michigan golf team barely qualified for the NCAA Division I Golf Championships to be held at the Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, the historic site of numerous USGA and PGAchampionships.

The 2009 NCAA D-I Championships marked a sea change for collegiate golf; a new/retro format involved team-match play with teams grouped into brackets as in the NCAA basketball brackets. (For non-golfers, “match play” is where two golfers play against each other, counting whether each hole is won or lost. The Ryder Cup is a well-known team-match play format. “Medal play,” on the other hand, is the format that most PGA Tour events follow; the entire field playing four rounds for the best total score.) Former Buckeye Jack Nicklaus was invited to Inverness, and spoke at the opening dinner; the D-I Collegiate Player of the Year is now given the Nicklaus Award.

The 2009 NCAA Golf Championship also marked a turning point for Lion Kim and the Michigan Golf Team.  After having barely qualified, they proceeded to go to the semi-finals, including a thrilling victory over a highly-ranked USC team to make the “final four” of the championship before falling to the eventual national champs, Texas A&M. Lion Kim’s 17th hole match win against his USC opponent was one of the great moments in Michigan golf in decades.

From then on, Lion Kim has become one of the best players in college golf. He qualified for almost every major amateur event last summer, and in five grueling North Carolina July days at the Bryan Park Golf Course in Greensboro, Lion Kim won the United States Amateur Public Links Championship.  By tradition every year, the USAPL winner, as well as the United States Amateur finalists and the winner of the British Amateur, are all invited to the Masters Tournament at Augusta.

I spoke to Lion last year; he was gracious to talk for a while as he was practicing for the Western Amateur at the Skokie Golf Club just outside of Chicago. At that time, he was looking back with satisfaction on his Masters-qualifying win in the APL, and was looking forward to playing in the Western Am, the US Am at Chambers Bay (a future US Open site) and also playing with his new Michigan teammate, Joey Garber of Petoskey who had just won an unprecedetned double:  the Michigan Junior and the Michigan Amateur Championship. It was a heady time for Michigan golf; I decided to hang on to this interview until we got closer to April and people were finally turning attention to the Masters and Augusta. 

AP: Lion Kim clinches his final match in the USAPL, 6 and 5.

Section 1:  Lion Kim welcome to MGoBlog and thank you so much for taking some time to talk with us while you’re playing in the Western Amateur.

Lion Kim: Yeah, no problem.

S1:  First of all congratulations on the US Amateur Public Links, but also congratulations for what really now has been a great run for you for going on for a little bit more than a year now.  How does it feel to be a national champion?

LK:  You know, obviously it is an amazing feeling; never did I think this summer that I would win one of the biggest Amateur golf tournaments in the world. Not just in the US but one of the amateur tournaments around the world and I just feel very honored to be named a national champion and at the same time it’s very humbling because I realize that, you know, with this success obviously there is going to be some expectations now, and I enjoy those types of pressures and am really looking forward for the challenge ahead of me.

S1:  Your own game, Lion, seems to have gone to a new level, at the same time that the Michigan Golf Team’s collective game has gone to a new level starting back last year at the NCAA’s at Inverness.  Can you talk about that stretch of time for us?

LK:  Well, yeah, I mean since then I obviously gained a lot of confidence at NCAA’s and but you know overall just, I gained so much confidence in Michigan Golf Program and the coaches and in my teammates and obviously what we were able to do at Inverness Golf Club was amazing but at the same time, honestly in my opinion I was not really surprised because I knew our team was really capable of accomplishing big things like that and ever since then you know I personally gained a lot of confidence through that experience and I just knew actually that week that I am a good player and I really start to believe in myself and ever since then I just kept working hard and am just very lucky that all of my hard work paid off at the US Public Links Championship because obviously with that win, you know, I get some cool invites to PGA Tour events next year, so very exciting.

S1:  Yeah it is going to be a very, very cool year for you coming up.  Any particular memories from your time at Inverness? I was there, and I happened to be standing next to Bronson Burgoon when he hit that gap wedge shot on the last hole of the last match which was pretty exciting.  What are your memories of Inverness

LK:  I guess I mean it is tough not to pick my shot on 17 to close out the deal against USC.  I mean obviously we had a large gallery for my group at that time and you know looking back at that golf shot it is a very tough golf shot.  I mean from 212 and I cannot even see the flag.  I have to really just, you know I am only 5’8 and that is on a good day too.  So, I could not even see the flag, so I had to really just jump up to even see the tip of it and, so yeah it just came to that shot on 17 to close out the match.  It just came out perfect, exactly they way I visualized it, and you know it took off.  I thought it was a half skill, half luck type of shot. I mean, I knew that if I had the confidence I would get a good shot, but not to a point where it would be a tap in range.

S1:  Yeah.  How did it feel to play in that new NCAA format at Inverness?

LK:  Well very exciting obviously.  You know in match play, anything can happen and to be honest with you, we were a good team that year but we weren’t a great team and USC was a great team.  I think they were ranked in the top-5 heading into that week; and we were like a top-30 team and so you know that’s what happens in match play, you just never know.  I mean there is no advantage when it comes to match play and that is really what is exciting because you just do not know who is going to win.  As you say, it was the first year where they had the championship go to match play and I feel like we were very lucky to get the first taste of it. 

S1:  Jack Nicklaus was very excited about that format and he thinks it is a great thing for college golf.  He thinks it is a great thing for young golfers that want to be better golfers to get that experience in match play.

LK:  Yeah I mean, I definitely agree with Mr. Nicklaus.  I think that if you become a good match play player, if you’re a great match play player, it really means that not only are you a good golfer but you are just mentally tough because in match play you just really have to be tough because how I like to think of the match play is when I see our opponent plays good, you just need to play great.  And if your opponent plays great, you’ve just got to play phenomenal golf.  There is nothing to it, you got to do whatever it takes to beat your opponent and you know, you just have to answer.  That is the type of attitude I have in match play and again going back to what Mr. Nicklaus said, it makes you a better player I think, when you play a lot of match play events.

S1:  Yeah.  Did you meet him when you were down there at Inverness?

LK:  Yes, I was very lucky enough to meet him at the player’s dinner and I also actually have a picture that I took with him at the player’s dinner and it is hanging up on my wall, the picture is hanging up on my wall in my home in New Jersey. A very special moment.

S1:  Fantastic thing, to get a picture with him.  Well you’ll never forget that.  I have my own picture of me caddying for him in 1973 when I was a 17 year old and he was at the peak of his powers then.  At that time he was a few years younger than Tiger Woods is right now, so yeah you will love that picture forever.  But I will tell you, Jack Nicklaus is a Buckeye through and through.

LK:  Yeah I understood that.  That is why it made it sweeter to even go up to him and say that I am Lion Kim and I play for the University of Michigan and he almost did not want to take a picture with me, but obviously he is a great man and it was just a fun thing I got from a little rivalry feeling between Ohio State and Michigan.

S1:  Yeah, what is it like playing Ohio State in golf matches?

LK:  You know obviously, it does not get as intense as it does in football.  But we all know that Ohio State and Michigan have the best college rivalry.  Maybe, in my opinion, the best rivalry in sports period.  I mean it is just a fierce rivalry, but in golf, I mean Ohio State knows that they want to beat us really bad and same with us we want to beat them very bad.  But at the end of the day know that we are friends and will be a gentleman and shake their hands, whatever the result is.

S1:  We hear a lot about recruiting in football and basketball, but talk to us a little bit about recruiting in golf and about your own recruiting.

LK:  Yeah, well you know I am a guy from Florida and everybody asked me why would I go to Michigan, going up north to play golf.  You know when people or my buddies ask me that question, I say look -- plain and simple Jack Nicklaus went to Ohio State, Luke Donald went to Northwestern, Steve Stricker went to Illinois and I could go on and name all of these great players that have played school up in the Midwest or just north and you know I tell them that weather really should not be a factor and I understand golf is an outdoor sport but you know if you are really dedicated to the game and if you are really passionate you are going to find a way to improve no matter what the weather is like.  That is the attitude that I have and since my first American home had been in New Jersey, I have seen the weather before and it was not really a surprise for me when I came up to Michigan.

S1:  So, Joey Garber is coming down to Ann Arbor from Petoskey, he is really having a great summer too.  He is out there in Chicago with you right now for the Western Am, right?

LK:  Yes he is.

S1:  And you have got one other teammate that has made the field at the Western?

LK:  Actually there are four of us; including me and Joey, there is also Matt Thompson and Jack Schultz.

S1:  (Laughs.) That’s good; you calling Joey your teammate already.

Yes.  (Laughs.)  Right; he is, yes!

S1:  Joey is having a really good summer.  I am not sure; did he qualify as an alternate for USAmateur qualifying?

LK:  Yeah, he is the second alternate right now.  I think he just fell a couple of shots short to make it.  But he is an alternate, he still has hope.

S1:  So, you're exempt for the USAmateur by virtue of your great win in the Public Links.  You did not have to go through qualifying, right?

LK:  After my win I actually called the US AM the following day and said I am scheduled to play in my qualifier in a week and I said, you know I am guessing I am exempt, and they said yes you are exempt and we will just take your name off of the qualifying list and the lady was really nice and she said you are already set and no worries about showing up to your qualifying time.  Which was a good feeling because a lot of guys over the summer really, even no matter how bad, or how poorly they were playing in the summer I think every college kid’s goal in the summer really is to at least to play in the US Amateur.  So, it is always in the back of our minds; Am qualifying.  But for me luckily I won’t have to qualify for a couple of years. 

S1:  Well for those that are not quite as tuned to it as you and I might be, the USAmateur is obviously the premier national championship for amateur golfers but in the exact same breath you would mention the USAmateur Public Links Championship which you won this year.

LK:  Yes.

S1:  The Public Links is kind of interesting because it was started specifically by the USGA to provide a championship for players that weren’t members of private golf clubs.

LK:  Yes.

S1:  And honestly I will tell you Lion; before this interview with you I had never before seen the questionnaire form that you have to fill out for the Public Links.  And they really do ask all of those questions about whether you are a member at a private club. 

LK:  Yeah, and you know what is funny is that they even call to make sure, they even call a club just to make sure that you are really not a member.  The first year I qualified to apply for the Public Links, I sent in my application, got all of my travel arrangements ready and then someone from the USGA called me up and said, “Lion unfortunately you are not eligible to play in the Public Links yet because you did not get rid of your [Florida golf club] membership ahead of time...”  What I learned then was that you have to go a full year without being a golf club member.   And I had gotten rid of my club membership in high school because I was going away for college and obviously it would be a waste of money to spend the monthly payment when I am not going to be there for the majority of the year.  So my dad figured well if I am not going to be there, then why bother paying all of this money.  So we got rid of it.  But yeah, it had been less than a year before that application.  I mean they have some really strict rules, you know, they said you will be eligible for the next year, but not that year.  So you’re right; they are very strict about that.

S1:  Yeah, it is a really interesting thing.  I do not know if you were aware of it, but the origination of the United States Amateur Public Links came about way back I think in the 1920s as a result of a guy from Detroit, it was James Standish who was later a President of the USGA and a member at the Country Club of Detroit who had the idea to start the Amateur Public Links; it is his name that is on the trophy.  You will have to look at your trophy to see if you see his name there.

LK:  (Laughs.)  Really, okay.

AP: Lion Kim, holding the Standish Trophy following his USAPL win.

 

S1:  So there is a nice little Detroit connection there for the Amateur Public Links, he would sure be proud to see a guy from the University of Michigan win it...

Yeah, so as a result of your win at the Public Links you are going to Augusta.

LK:  Ha, yes, that is the plan.  I did not get my official invitation yet, but that is usually the tradition, I think when you do win the USGA, Public Links or US, you get invited to the Masters.

S1:  I think you will get your invitation in about February.

LK:  Haha.  Okay.

S1:  They will mail it to you and obviously your Masters Invitation is probably going to go into a frame and go into your office someday.

LK:  Yeah, I will definitely frame it for sure.

S1:  Yes.  So, tell me have you ever been to Augusta?

LK:  No I haven’t.  I have never even been to a practice round, never been to anywhere close to Augusta, the City of Augusta, period.  So I am really looking forward to it.  I plan on playing a practice round maybe in October.  I look forward to going down there. 

S1:  Well I think that they will welcome you and they will be very, very happy to have you down there and you will get to see the Crow’s Nest. 

LK:  Yeah, hopefully.  I think all the Amateurs get to stay at the Crow’s Nest so yeah I am looking forward to that too.

S1:  So tell me who is going to caddy for you?

LK:  I am not really sure yet.  I mean, I have been asking a lot of my friends who have played there in the past and to be honest with you I am getting two kinds of advice.  Some say you should take your dad or friend or a coach.  Some people say you need to take a local caddy.  But right now, I am not sure yet.  I have not really made my decision.  Obviously I will make my decision leading up to it, but I have a lot of time to really think about it.  So, I am not really sure yet to tell you the truth. 

S1:  Sure, well when you go down there for a practice round, you may get a chance to meet some of the local caddies and they will surely be interested in you.

LK:  Yeah, right, hopefully.

 

S1:  You cannot believe how hilly it is.  You just never see it on television.  It just doesn’t show up on a two-dimensional television screen.  The whole thing is on a big side hill from the clubhouse at the top of the hill going all the way down to the 12th green and 13th tee, which is the lowest part of the property down there by the Rae’s Creek.  But the extent and the severity of the hills are just absolutely amazing.  You have no idea, no appreciation until you see it live.  So, it will be fun to go down there and see it for the first time.

LK:  Hmm, yeah, really looking forward to it, very excited to see it.

S1:  Well when you won the Amateur Public Links the first thing everyone was trying to think of was whether you would be the first University of Michigan team player to play in the tournament and as far as I have been able to tell, you are the first U of M student that will ever be a Masters’ participant.  But there have been some other Michigan guys that have played in it over the years.  As far as I can tell the last Michigan alum who played in it was John Schroeder back in the 1970s and 80s.  Before that you have to go back to the 1930s when Chuck Koscis and John Fisher played in it as amateurs then.

LK:  Yep, definitely heard of Chuck Koscis for sure.

S1:  Yeah, great iron player. 

LK:  Yes, that is what I heard.

S1:  So, equipment-wise, when you go down to Augusta you are going to have to play by the new groove rules.  Is that going to require you to change out anything in your bag?

LK:  Ah yeah; probably my wedges.  I know for sure my current wedges do not confirm with the new rule [The PGA Tour condition of competition for grooves, which is not applicable to the NCAA until 2014.]  Right now, amateur events don’t really matter.  I don’t think that any of the amateurs have to change until like 2014 I believe. 

S1:  That is exactly right.

LK:  Yeah, so I think that equipment-wise I think that my wedges will be the only clubs in my bag that I would have to switch out.  But you know what, I think that I could get used to [tour-conforming wedges] very quickly.  I have always practiced and played a couple rounds with the conforming groove and I did not really see a whole lot of difference.  So, it should not be a whole lot of transition for me.

S1:  Does Coach [Andrew] Sapp help you guys with equipment?

LK:  Yes, Coach Sapp does and also fortunately for me, before I got to college I had a relationship with Titleist, so they have been helping me out since high school and even throughout right now.  So, Titleist is the club that I usually play with.  I found a new Taylor Made driver that was something different that I have played with for a couple months, but I am pretty sure that I will have Titleist driver in my bag leading up to the Masters.

If you get a chance to talk to talk [former Assistant] Coach Doug [Gross] he will tell you how many equipment changes I have gone through in my Michigan career.  He thinks that I have probably gone through about 18 drivers since I have been in school.  That is quite a bit.    

S1:  Sure.  The new Titleist drivers are very cool; they are finally going to an adjustable hosel sleeve design which is going to make it a lot more fun, a lot easier to work with.  I think the tendency with all of the Titleist drivers that you have been using in the past is that with the way that the hosel bore was set so deep -- that bore-through design -- it sort of ate up a lot of the tip on the shaft and kind of, kind of changed the way that shafts felt. 

S1:  Yeah.

S1:  Well, lets do the lightning round here.  I am going to ask you just a few fun questions, give me your fast answer, okay?

LK:  Okay.

S1:  Alright; your favorite place on the Michigan Campus, other than the golf course?

LK:  Ahhh, Academic Center.

S1:  (Laughs.)  That’s a good start, Lion.

LK:  (Laughs.)

S1:  Your favorite place to play golf anywhere?

LK:  Ahh, I would have to go with Cypress Point in California.

S1: Oh, really you played there?

LK:  Yeah, Coach Sapp and one of the Michigan alums, Tony Ridder, [he of the Knight-Ridder newspaper family] he invited the team to play at Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, San Francisco Golf Club and Spyglass.

S1:  Wow.

LK:  Yeah, we got to play some really nice tracks while we were down there.  Beautiful, beautiful scenery.

S1:  That’s nice.  San Francisco Golf Club is seriously nice, too.

LK:  Yeah, very nice, right.

Tony Ridder (far left) with the Michigan Golf Team and Coach Sapp (far right) on the first tee at Pebble Beach Golf Links.  (Lion Kim 3rd from right.)

 

S1:  Okay, back to the lightning round.  Your favorite website?

LK:  Facebook

S1:  What is on your Ipod?

LK:  Korean music.  The majority of them are all Korean music.

S1:  That’s cool.  What is the weirdest thing in your golf bag?

LK:  So you warned me about this question, so I have been thinking about that, it is actually my baby oil --

S1:  Oh, wait, I know that.  That’s not so weird.

LK:  (Laughter.) Haha, okay.

S1:  I know that; you put baby oil on the finish of your Scotty Cameron putter.  (Laughter.)

LK:  Yes, correct, correct, it will rust.

S1:  I have an old Scotty Cameron Oil Can Laguna, I have to put baby oil on that one as well.

LK:  (Laughter.)  Oh yeah, okay.  Man you know a lot of stuff.

S1:  (Laughter.)  Well that is just the way that we take care of them, right?

LK:  That’s right.  (More laughs.)

S1:  Well Lion Kim, thank you so much for taking time while you are in the middle of a competitive week.  We are all wishing you luck in the Western Am, which is one of the great amateur tournaments in the Country and we wish you success in the US Amateur out there in Chambers Bay and we send you sincere congratulations and the pride of everybody at Michigan on winning the US Amateur Public Links and being Michigan’s National Champion in 2010.

LK:  Thank you SO much.  Thank you.  It is very exciting and I feel very honored to always represent the block M everywhere I go, so it is an amazing feeling to be a National Champion of the year.

S1:  Well, fantastic! Lion Kim Go Blue!

LK:  Go Blue!

 

Lion Kim introduced at Michigan Stadium, September 18, 2010: 

Comments

ken725

March 28th, 2011 at 7:05 PM ^

I'm sorry if I missed this in the interview, but did he get his invitation to the Masters?  It was mentioned he should receive it in Feb.

Section 1

March 28th, 2011 at 7:36 PM ^

It was never in doubt.  However, what some people don't understand about The Masters is that technically, it is just an invitational Pro-Am, that is run by the Augusta National Golf Club.  They own it.  It is not a USGA event; it is not a PGA Tour event.  So they get to invite whom they want to.  The tradition of inviting the top ams goes back to the very beginnings of the Club and the Tournament, in 1934. 

Anyway, it is assured that Lion Kim's Masters invitation is already safely in a frame, hung in some very safe place.  Here's the invitee list from masters.com:

http://www.masters.com/en_US/players/invitees_2011.html

My understanding is that Lion visited ANGC once last fall and played a couple of times, and that he was back at the club once earlier this spring, and then will have a series of practice rounds on Monday-Wednesday next week.

mvp

March 29th, 2011 at 1:38 AM ^

...it is The Masters.  Were you ever in that circumstance you would *never* presume that you had an invitation, *never* publicly state anything that showed you acting presumptuous, and *never* treat the tournament with anything other than reverance (mostly for fear of being left out...).

Section 1

March 28th, 2011 at 8:57 PM ^

Peter Uihlein of Oklahoma State.  Whose father, Wally Uihlein, just happens to be the CEO of Acushnet.  As in Titleist/FootJoy - Acushnet.

Peter is the top-ranked am in the nation right now, and he won the US Am last summer.

Jon06

March 28th, 2011 at 10:32 PM ^

What are the eligibility rules for amateur & college golfers? Apparently "relationships" with companies like Titleist are ok, though in other sports you'd expect that to prevent playing in amateur or NCAA events. Section 1?

Section 1

March 28th, 2011 at 11:56 PM ^

Okay, so let's get two organizations identified:  One is the NCAA, the other is the United States Golf Association (USGA).  Lion Kim wants to be careful to comply with both sets of rules.

Everybody on this site knows instinctively what Lion can't do under NCAA rules; he can't take money from boosters, he needs to stay eligible in school, there may be limits on practice and training time, et cetera.  Now golf teams, like football teams, get some equipment and some other things provided to them.  Facilities, trainers, jet travel to events, and... equipment.  Michigan is an adidas school, and adidas = Taylor Made-adidas golf.  Known in the biz as TMaG.  In the great scheme of things, the one thing that NCAA athletes always get is great equipment and athletic swag.  The NCAA doesn't care, unless athletes start selling the stuff for cash profit.  Or trading it for tattoos.

The USGA Rules on Amatuer Status are actually more restrictive on golfing activities than are the NCAA rules.  And over the years, the NCAA and the USGA have sort of made peace with each other and have tried to work cooperatively to make things sensible for collegiate golfers.  (The US Amateur is now infamous for looking like the NCAA Championships; such is the dominance of collegiate golfers over golf amateurs in their 20's and 30's who might have real jobs.)

Anyway, many years ago the USGA tried to limit the amount of equipment an amateur could receive as a gift or a favor.  There was a dollar-value limit on it, and it was almost from the start an unworkable rule.  Good amateur players and touring professionals are constantly trading hot equipment, giving it away, loaning stuff, trying and trying to figure out what works for them.  Nobody stood a chance of being able to figure it all out and place a value on it.

So a long time ago, the USGA agreed that equipment, but nothing more than equipment, could be accepted by amateurs, for their own use.  Ams like Lion Kim are not supposed to sell stuff that is given to them to use, but they may work with a manufacturer and get the best stuff, properly fitted and worked up for them, and it does not affect their amateur status.

Also a few years ago, the USGA tried to crack down on informal "promotion" by amateurs.  Probably nobody remembers it, but when Michelle Wie was still an amateur, she would wear professionally tailored and coordinated outfits, all with the David Ledbetter (her teacher) Academy logo on it.  Ledbetter was working with Tour players, and ultra-wealthy recreational players, and his lessons cost thousands.  Michelle Wie got it all free.  But she was wearing the Ledbetter logos.  On national tv.  She always had the Ledbetter logo on.  The USGA didn't much like it, but she turned pro and the issue then became moot.

Lion Kim has a longstanding relationship with Titleist.  It dates back to when he was a prodigy junior player in Florida.  And he is often seen wearing a Titleist logo visor, when not golfing in uniform for Michigan.  It is all 100% legal.  Not only is there nothing wrong, it isn't even that unusual.  He gets nothing from Titleist, other than special attention and fantastically well-made equipment just for him.  He must get no other money, and he assuredly doesn't.

Just about all NCAA D-I golfers are getting some very cool stuff that golf devotees would drool over.  Some of it is cool just because it is theirs; like Lion Kim's Scotty Cameron.  Most of it is equipment that would be useless and unplayable for recreational golfers.  (X-flex shafts, etc.)  A lot of it is perfectly ordinary equipment.  (Ping in particular was always great about helping college golfers in all divisions to get good equipment, but it wasn't anything that good ams couldn't buy themselves if they wanted.)  An now, with major competition between Nike and adidas, with Nike now into golf, and adidas having bought Taylor Made, there is some very nice gear to be found at NCAA events.  All of it perfectly legal under NCAA and USGA rules.

I will say one other thing -- I edited this interview, which was longer, while Lion and I got into some really arcane details about equipment.  But it would be unreadable for anybody who wasn't into golf equipment and the tour vans, et cetera. 

Section 1

March 29th, 2011 at 5:54 PM ^

2.  Yes; the team trip to Nor Cal (Pebble, Spyglass, CPC, SFGC) was part of the team's regular spring training, IIRC.  It was definitely a team trip, and so no; not even a whiff of a NCAA or a USGA violation.  The trip, by the way, was covered in some detail on the team's official webpage at MGoBlue.com.

1.  I won't be posting the edited-out "equipment specs" parts of the interview (not that it had even the slightest negativity about anything -- Lion Kim is the most polite, sweetest, best, most serious-minded kid in North America -- but because we talked about some equipment people and some other stuff that ought to be regarded as off the record whether Lion asked for it or not).  And really, as much as anything, after six months and a new season beginning, his equipment specs change somewhat; it could simply be out of date now.

Equipment-wise, Lion is crazy-picky by recreational golf standards; he is merely normal by PGA Tour standards.  He uses Rifle Project X 6.0 shafts in his irons, which are standard-appearing Titleist AP2's.  That's not surprising for a guy of his height, but it is a bit soft by tour standards.  Taller and bigger guys on tour are using 6.5, 7.0 and even 7.2.  Lion's specs would be more in line with Luke Donald in that regard.  And he was using an Ozik Matrix XCon 5 shaft (that's a very serious Tour-level driver shaft) in his old driver.  But Lion, like a lot of guys (Charles Howell III and Arnold Palmer come to mind) switches drivers a lot, and in the pictures above, I see he may be playing with a new Taylor Made R11, which will make the TMaG/Michigan brand managers very happy.

jajalittle

March 29th, 2011 at 9:41 PM ^

What you failed to explain is that college golfers are only allowed a certain amount of equipment per year. And it is against NCAA rules for golfers to recieve equipment directly from a club company. To get around this while the players are in college the companies send the equipment to the University and Coach and then they give it to the players. However, the stipulation is that the value of the equipment comes out of that yearly allotment (even if the club company gives it to the school, it is supposed to come out of the players "budget" for the year. I know for a fact that Lion had as many as, 3 sets of wedges, 6 drivers, 4 or 5 hybrids, new irons and 2 or 3 putters in his first two years at school. This added up to way more than his alloted budget.  

maizenbluedevil

March 28th, 2011 at 11:59 PM ^

Awesome interview!!  Thanks for taking the time to do this.

Although if this was an interview with me, you would've had to put 

"maizenbluedevil: (laughter)"

after you said:

"it sort of ate up a lot of the tip on the shaft and kind of, kind of changed the way that shafts felt."

Yes, I'm 12. :P

Section 1

March 29th, 2011 at 12:12 PM ^

That you guys should be aware of...

The Augusta National Golf Course is the product of golf course architect Alister Mackenzie, with assistance from Perry Maxwell.  It was designed and built in the early 1930's.

Mackenzie is one of golf's most revered architects; in addition to Augusta, he designed the Cypress Point Club (Lion Kim mentioned CPC in our interview), Pasatiempo and the Valley Club of Montecito in California, two courses for the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia, and one of the greatest hidden-gem golf courses in the world, Crystal Downs in northern Michigan.  There are too many others to name.  For a club to have an Alister Mackenzie golf course, is like a museum owning a Rembrandt or a Vermeer.

Michigan has one.  The University of Michigan golf course was designed by Mackenzie and Maxwell, and it is almost exactly the same vintage as Crystal Downs and Augusta.  There are only two Mackenzie golf courses owned by universities.  Michigan; and the Scarlet Course at The Ohio State University.  But of the two, Michigan's is arguably the one real gem.  The Scarlet Course is a fine golf course, and it regularly hosts a Nationwide Tour event every year.  But it is no longer a Mackenzie design.  It has been modernized and updated by the Nicklaus Design Company.  Michigan, by comparision, is nearly all original and preserved.  The University of Michigan Golf Course is consistently rated among the Top 10 collegiate golf courses in the nation; that's been the case since it opened.  And as time goes on, the historical preservation of the course becomes ever-more important.

yossarians tree

March 29th, 2011 at 1:05 PM ^

But holy smokes, buy a few more commas!

Re: the Michigan golf course. For those who have not played it, give yourself that chance. It is difficult, but fair. But mostly it is a lot of FUN to play. The greens are amazing, on par I'd say with those at Oakland Hills. Alumni can play for an unbelievable rate--believe my round last summer was less than $50.

jajalittle

March 29th, 2011 at 9:50 PM ^

Good grief, if anyone on here actually knew the real story. Lion is an arrogant prick. As a former player, it is embarassing to have him representing Michigan at the Masters. Ask anyone of his former or current teammates off the record and they would all say the same. He couldn't care less about being at Michigan. The truth is he had to come to a northern school because none of the premier schools wanted him. We were not a top tier school during those years so everyone made a big deal about signing a top-15 junior golfer. For a top-15 junior to not have offers from the top schools in the country, there has to be a reason. And we found out. He is just smart enough to make the general OSU rivalry comment and say he is proud to wear the block M but it is a sham. One example of the hundreds I have about him not being a good teammate is happening right now - he asked the coaches if he could work out one on one with the strength coach instead of working out with his teammates because he said "they were too distracting" - not because he has class conflicts or he has an injury he is nursing or that the team has odd numbers, because working out with his TEAM is too distracting. Such a joke. 

kw_hanna

March 31st, 2011 at 2:50 PM ^

JaJa, I'm sorry to hear that Lion (a top-15 recruit) took your spot in the varsity lineup...

Maybe you can join a men's league somewhere and talk about how that would have been you in the Masters, you know if Lion didn't come to Michigan.

Whether your beef is genuine or not, it comes off very much like sour grapes.

mgolf4

March 31st, 2011 at 4:37 PM ^

Even if what you said is completely true or completely untrue, it is a shame that you feel the need to attack the personal character of a 17-22 year old college athlete on this website. Lion works as hard as or harder than anyone I have ever played with and it is great for the program that he is playing in the Masters. 

mgolf4

March 31st, 2011 at 3:14 PM ^

I think one of the most iteresting things, which Section1 alluded to, is the groove change for his wedges. I'm sure Lion has been practicing with the new grooves in his preparation, and he will probably use brand new wedges to maximize the sharpness of his wedges, but even brand new, the reduced groove width and depth makes a big difference. It changes the trajectory and spin rates from both the fairway and the rough. It took me about 4 or 5 months to really feel comortable with all the shots around the green. This will be magnified with the necessity for precision due to the speed and undulation of the greens at Augusta. Lion's short game might be his biggest strength but he has alway used his ability to spin the ball alot to control his shots around the green. If he can handle the moment this will be something to watch for in the tournament.

a2bluefan

March 31st, 2011 at 3:28 PM ^

Thanks not only for the interview, but for all the extra info from your vault of knowledge. 

The Golf Channel had the final round of the 1986 Masters on late last night. I was truly amazed by the surge from Nicklaus to win it all. I remember it happening back then...but it was at a time when I really didn't give a damn about golf. Somehow, I never knew he was a Buckeye until I read this post. I kinda hate him a little now. But can't deny the man's golfing awesomeness.

Amazingly to me, I took up the game of golf last summer and became instantly addicted. In fact, my lunch hour today was spent at Miles of Golf on Carpenter, trying to ready myself for the season. High on my list of priorties this year is to play the U of M course. Being new, I was a little intimidated by it, so I stayed away last year. But now, even though I'm still new, I'm pretty fearless about it all. Bring it on! 

 

mgolf4

March 31st, 2011 at 3:54 PM ^

I was talking with an old teammate just last night about how watching the '86 Masters just never gets old. 

As for the U of M course you will be glad you played. I would advise to play as early as possible during the day because the pace of play is notoriously slow in the afternoon. Playing after class was like taking a turtle for a walk. 

Some thing you might not know that will help --->

Everything breaks towards State Street - or the east. Now it won't change the break of a putt completely but it will make it break less or more severe based on where State Street is. The greens are tricky but the course is a driving golf course. If you drive it will it is pretty easy if the course is soft - especially with modern equipment. I have always wanted to play with persimmon clubs and balata balls out there because back in the day I bet it was extremely tough. 

Hole 1 - Hit your drive down the left, OB is way further left than it seems from the tee and the trees on the right side of the hole make laying up pretty hard from the right side. 

Hole 2 - The fairway is much further left off the tee than it seems, you can aim just right of the trees on the left side at the top of the hill. 

Hole 3 - Do not cut try to cut the corner when you lay up. 

Hole 4 - The opposite of hole 2 - the fairway is farther right than it seems, hit it over the left edge of the right trees. 

Hole 5 - Very firm green

Hole 6 - Front pin: get the drive as close to the hole as possible, Back pin: lay up to 80 to 100 yards.

Hole 7 - Don't flirt with the left trees, the two telephone poles in the distance are a good line. Also,  the green is very fast front to back. 

Hole 8 - Left bunker is death. 

Hole 9 - You always have a shot from right of the fairway, but almost never have one from left of the fairway. 

Hole 10 - Harder angle from the right side of the fairway due to the slope of the green but better view of the pin. 

Hole 11 - Left trees are death of the tee and the fairway bunker is not within reach. 

Hole 12 - Anything on the lower tier or short right is fine. 

Hole 13 - Fairway it much bigger than it seems, hit the drive as far as you can. 

Hole 14 - Pay attention to the flag color, from middle right to back right the green is much deeper than it seems. 

Hole 15 - Left trees = chip out. Hit it to 120 - 150. 

Hole 16 - The best tee shot challenges the trees to the right for a better angle to the green

Hole 17 - Stay up the right side for a flatter lie and better look at the hole. Too far up the left side and the approach is blocked out. 

Hole 18 - There is room past the bunker to land a drive without going into the water