Jenny Kim first South Korean golfer at Middle TennesseeSeptember 24, 2003 · By Nate Rau / special to GoBlueRaiders.com
The freshman came to Middle Tennessee this fall from King's Academy in Knoxville through Chicago, by way of Seoul, South Korea. While her long journey to Murfreesboro would be an amazing story in its own right, there's a minor detail that makes it even more miraculous.
Jenny Kim, who won the TSSAA State Championship as a senior, never played golf until the summer before her junior year of high school.
"In South Korea, you either choose between academics or athletics," Kim said. "If you choose academics, that's it ... that's your life.
"I always thought that (if I choose to play a sport) then I'd get as far as I could go with the sport and I'd have totally neglected my academics."
South Korea has federally-sponsored hyper-intensive athletic programs that steers young athletes toward the ultimate goal of becoming an Olympic team member. If a youngster chooses sports, then that event becomes the focal point of their life. Kim should know the inner-workings of the demands of being an Olympic team member ... her dad is the South Korean National Olympic soccer coach. Not that you'd know it from talking to Kim.
"We laugh about it, because I asked her what her dad did and she said, 'Oh, he's a soccer coach,'" head coach Rachael Moore said. "And then he comes to visit a few months later and gives me his card and it says, 'Olympic Head Coach.'
"I was like, Jenny! You didn't tell me your dad was the Olympic head coach."
And if Moore had disbelief over that, imagine Jenny's dad's reaction when she called to tell him that she was the Tennessee state champion.
"At my high school graduation ceremony, (King's Acad. head golf coach Al Savage) gave my parents a banner that had my name on it and it said, 'State Champ' and my parents started crying.
"When I left South Korea, I didn't golf, so they didn't believe the news when I called to say I won state or that I got a scholarship to come here."
Kim's arrival at Middle Tennessee has been well received.
She's been immediately called upon to step in and contribute and she hasn't disappointed.
"We're expecting big things from Jenny and both of our freshmen (also freshman Maggie McGill)," Moore said. "We definitely think both will be able to step in immediately and improve our team."
Kim says she's adjusted to American culture and can't decide if she's going to live in the states or back home after graduation. She likes American food and she enjoys rap music.
"I love it here," Kim said. "Sometimes I think I want to live here and sometimes I say I'll live back home in Korea.
"It's been an amazing experience coming (to the U.S.) and having all this happen. I'll never forget my time here."
Nate Rau is a junior at Middle Tennessee. Reach him at NateRau9797@yahoo.com
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