Posted by: happyfan08 | November 25, 2010

Giving Back

The Korean golfers on the LPGA love giving to charity almost as much as hitting golf balls.  Over the past few years, many of them have made contributions large and small to worthy causes.  In this season of Thanksgiving, let’s take a quick look at some of the most notable gifts of recent years!

First of all, any comprehensive overview of the ways Korean women golfers give back to society would be far too involved to easily summarize.  Take it for granted that almost all of these ladies are involved in some kind of philanthropy or other, much of which is not reported in this country (some of these efforts I found out about from Korean press reports).  And I certainly apologize if I forget any notable examples!  I’m sure you readers will let me know and shame me accordingly.

Jiyai Shin is not only the current world #1 women’s golfer, she is also an all-star when it comes to donating to good causes.  She has started a lucrative second career as a singing star in Korea, with all the profits she earns going to charity.  She has done work for Ronald McDonald House and Habitat for Humanity.  But her most notable recent gift came at this year’s KLPGA Championship.  Shin returned to Korea to play in this event, the second Major of the KLPGA season, and in a flashback to 2008, won the trophy.  She then gave the entire first place prize, worth over $130,000, to charity.  Na Yeon Choi, who was also in the field, finished third and gave her entire check to charity as well.

Jiyai Shin at this year's KLPGA Championship

Na Yeon Choi has had a great season, rising to #5 in the world rankings and currently the top of the LPGA money list and Vare Trophy standings.  She is also someone who loves to give back, though for now, mostly in Korea.  As well as the aforementioned gift from the KLPGA Championship, one of her favorite causes is contributing to Konkuk University Medical Center.  In the past two seasons she has contributed over $50,000, while appearing in person to give the gifts both times.

Na Yeon performed magic tricks for the kids after donating money to the hospital in 2009


This past week, In Kyung Kim added herself to the list of Koreans who have given big donations to charity.  She won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico, and during the post-event interview on TV, pledged to give her entire winner’s check of $220,000 to charity.  Half is going to Ochoa’s charity in Mexico, and the other half to an as yet undecided American charity.  It was a bold and beautiful gesture that amounted to roughly 20% of her earnings for the season.  In fact, it’s likely it will cost her more: generally, caddies make 15% of a winner’s check, so she will be writing her caddie a check for $33,000 from her own pocket.  Add onto that travel expenses, equipment, etc., and winning the tournament will cost her more than $35,000 easily.  But it was all worth it: Kim explained,

“Before I came to the U.S., I wanted to come to the U.S., but I know it’s tough and my parents are working really hard at the time when I was 16. And we weren’t really rich, but it takes a lot of money to send me to the U.S. and go to school and all that. But there is one person who helped my parents, and if he didn’t help my parents, or if he didn’t help me coming to the U.S., I wouldn’t really be here. Everyone needs help. I think that’s why I’m all about that.”

In Kyung Kim after winning the 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational


Kim and her sponor Hana Bank also contribute money to a special charity that gives micro-loans to help small businesses get started (fellow Hana Bank sponsoree Hee Young Park also is involved with this effort).  The rumor is that she is looking for a similar charity to give money to here in the States, perhaps even one that focuses on her American hometown of San Diego.

Kim and Shin are not the only Koreans to donate an entire winner’s check to those less fortunate.  Back in 2008, the Sichuan region of China was hit with a devastating earthquake.  At about that time, young golfer Amy Yang was just getting her professional career started when she won the LET’s Ladies German Open.  She decided to donate the entire winner’s check, about 29,000 pounds or $40,000, to help the earthquake victims.  At the time, that amount was a significant percentage of the total amount of money the 18 year old had made in her entire career; though I don’t have the precise figures, it might in fact have been MORE money than what she had made in the entire rest of her career.  She had won a previous LET event as an amateur, but of course earned no money for that win, meaning she pocketed $0 for her first two professional wins.  This was a startling gesture by such a young golfer so early in her career!

Amy Yang with her trophy from the 2008 Ladies German Open

Another Korean golfer rose to the occasion and made a big money gesture when a natural disaster struck.  In 2007, the town of Greensburg, Kansas, was almost complete wiped out by a massive tornado.  That week, one state away, the LPGA was holding an event.  Mi Hyun Kim won the tournament, and decided to give $100,000 of her win total of $210K to help the victims of that tornado, even though she had never been to the town and knew nobody affected by the disaster.

So why did she give the money away?  She said that she felt like the tournament would favor a long hitter, so she didn’t expect to win.  When she did, she said it felt like a gift from God, and that He gave her this win so she, in turn, could use the money to help others.

Mi Hyun Kim at the 2007 SemGroup Championship

A year later, the President of the United Way of the Plains in Wichita, Kansas, appeared with Kim at a press conference before the tournament began.  He publicly thanked Kimmie for the gift, and remarked that her gesture had not only helped the town recover but also had spurred an additional $1.2 million in donations from others.  That money was used to help rebuild 25 houses for low and moderate income families affected by the tornado.

Here is a link to a video telling the story.

Another wonderful connection between a group of Americans and a Korean golfer was forged following a win several years ago.  Jeong Jang is a golfer who loves to give back whenever possible.  She supports a charity called Smile Train, which pays for doctors to provide facial reconstruction surgery to impoverished children in the third world.  She also is involved with a program that provides money to Korean charities for every birdie she makes during the season.  But this story is about yet another wonderful gesture Jang made shortly after notching her second win on tour.  The same week she won the Wegman’s LPGA tournament in Rochester, New York, it was also the anniversary of the start of the Korean War.  Every year the Rochester area veterans of that war gather at a memorial park to remember.  A Korean American who attends these ceremonies volunteered to go to the LPGA event to see if she could convince one of the LPGA Koreans to make an appearance at the service.  She succeeded beyond her wildest dreams when she got the champion of the tournament to agree to appear as soon as her duties to the tournament were complete.  And sure enough, JJ and her father did come, paying respects and even making a sizable donation to keep the park going.

Every year since then without fail, JJ has made an appearance at the memorial service, presenting the veterans with a new check.

JJ with a veteran in 2006

Here is a link to a video about this story.

So many other golfers deserve a mention and will be, alas, omitted due to lack of space.  But here are a few more to note:  Jee Young Lee has given money to girls golf programs in this country, including a $10,000 donation a few years ago.  She also likes to participate in Meals on Wheels; during tournaments, she will occasionally deliver meals to people being served by this organization.  She also frequently contributes her time to other charitable efforts, like appearing at hospitals to meet sick children.

Inbee Park has also donated her money to help girls golf development programs.  After winning the US Women’s Open in 2008, she gave $50,000 to the LPGA Foundation for just this purpose.

Many believe Jennifer Song will be one of the biggest stars on tour over the next few years.  Her professional career has just begun, but she has already made a truly special commitment.  She has promised that from now until the end of her career, she will give 30% of any money she makes in golf tournaments to charity.

Jennifer Song

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!



  1. talented ones!
    “The true genius shudders at incompleteness – and usually prefers silence to saying something which is not everything it should be.”
    Edgar Allan Poe

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