Posted by: happyfan08 | January 21, 2009

2008 Awards: Happiest News

Mi Hyun Kim gets married

One of the longest running gags on the LPGA tour goes like this.  Mi Hyun Kim’s parents once told the press that they would not give her permission to get married until she won the US Women’s Open (later, they became more generous, and said that any Major title would suffice).  Year after year, Kimmie tried, but was not able to get that elusive Major.  And year after year, Kimmie did not get married.  Was there really a connection?


In late 2007, Mi Hyun appeared on a sports game show with several other athletes.  While there, she met Won Hee Lee, who won the gold medal for judo at the 2004 Athens Olympics.  Lee was five years her junior, but sparks flew, and before long, they were having a clandestine relationship, while denying to the press that anything was going on.


Early in 2008, an interesting photo appeared on Kimmie’s website on the internet.  It showed a Valentine’s Day cake with the words ‘I love you’ and a little statue of a judo athlete.  The initials ‘WHL’ were on one side of it.  The Korean press went into an uproar, for it didn’t take a genius to figure out who WHL was.  At first, the two of them denied that there was anything going on, but just a couple months later, they admitted their relationship.  They also announced that they would be getting married in December, instantly becoming one of the most glamorous couples in the country.  But they still hadn’t appeared together in public.


The mysterious cake

The mysterious cake

That changed at the LPGA’s second Major of the year, the LPGA Championship.  Lee showed up before the event and followed Kim during her practice rounds.  The Korean media excitedly documented every moment.


Kimmie and Lee at the McDonald's LPGA Championship

Kimmie and Lee at the McDonald's LPGA Championship

For the rest of the year, there were periodic bursts of media coverage of the couple in Korea.  They released several sets of wedding photos, including some cute themed ones showing them, in full wedding regalia, at a golf course hitting balls, and at a judo arena.  At the Kolon-Hana Bank Championship, several of Korea’s top athletic stars, including swimming gold medalist Park Tae-Hwan and Weightlifting gold medalist Mi Ran Jang, showed up to root Kimmie on.  They also stayed to witness a truly odd moment.  After the tournament ended, Won Hee coraled Kimmie, and took her to an area outside the clubhouse, where he proceeded to propose to her while the Olympic stars watched.  This was apparently based on a scene from the movie ‘Love Actually’, a favorite of the couple.  Kimmie got emotional, they hugged, exchanged rings, and that was that.  This was not the actual proposal, but a delayed ‘formal’ one, since apparently he had not gotten around to a proposal he thought was satisfactory before this.  What was unusual about it was that it was done in full view of the media, who splashed the photos all over the front pages the next day.  This couple seems to have fully embraced their role as the new tabloid darlings of the country.


Mi Hyun and Won Hee in a cute golf themed wedding photo

Mi Hyun and Won Hee in a cute golf themed wedding photo


In mid-December, Kimmie and Lee tied the knot at last.  A full complement of Korean golf stars were there, including Grace Park and Se Ri Pak.  Interestingly, they staged a bouquet toss towards the end of the day, and who should catch the bouquet but Pak?  Based on the fact she was perfectly positioned to do that, however, I’m guessing this was probably intentional.  But regardless, it was a nice gesture by Kim to let her old rival be the one to get that honor.


Late in the year, the two appeared as guests on a talk show called, roughly, ‘Golden Fishery’.  More on that later!


Congratulations to that happy couple; may that have a long and wonderful life together!


Honorable Mentions

Amy Yang donates winnings to China Earthquake relief

See ‘Most Touching Moment’ for details.


Most Touching Moment

Amy Yang donates entire first place check to China earthquake relief

Amy Yang was having a great summer on the Ladies European Tour.  At the Swiss Open, she played some brilliant golf, but was not able to catch Norwegian star Suzann Pettersen, who was playing the best golf of her year.  The next week, however, Yang broke through with a win at the German Women’s Open, her first LET win since turning pro.


As you can imagine, the first place check she earned at that event would have been pretty important to her, probably the biggest check she had ever earned to date (remember that when she won the ANZ Ladies Masters as a 16 year old, she was still an amateur and thus earned nothing).  But this was round about the time of the devastating earthquake in China that caused so much suffering and death.  Yang proved she had a huge heart by giving her entire first place check to earthquake relief.  Not part of it, but all of it (presumably that means she paid her caddie out of her own pocket).  For any golfer, that’s a pretty great gesture, but when you consider what a huge percentage of her total lifetime earnings that check represented, it really becomes a fantastically sweet move.


Amy Yang with the trophy from the German Women's Open

Amy Yang with the trophy from the German Women's Open


Best Victory Celebration

In Kyung Kim, Longs Drugs Challenge

Inky had a tough time winning her first LPGA tournament.  She made plenty of mistakes during her final round, but also rose to the occasion just when she needed to.  At the end, when she unexpectedly sank a long birdie putt to put the event away, the emotional wells burst.  She watched in tears as the other golfers finished their rounds, then choked up as she thanked those on TV who had called her the night before to wish her luck.  When the gallery applauded behind her, she choked up again, turned to them and thanked the ‘awesome, awesome’ galleries.  Not bad for someone who described herself as a ‘punk kid’ earlier in the week.


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