Kang started playing golf at the age of 13 (this seems the common
age for the Seoul Sisters to take it up!). When she was 15, her
parents decided to move to the U.S. to get Jimin a better education.
Jimin was glad to come in order to further her golf education. They
first moved to California, but then relocated to the Seattle area
suburb of Edmonds. The father's reasoning was that she would be
able to golf in the summer and concentrate on her studies in the
winter. Jimin enrolled in a private Catholic school and promptly
became the standout player on their golf team.
no time she was racking up awards as a top junior and amateur player.
Among the highlights were winning the Washington Women's Amateur
Championship and finishing second in the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship,
both as a 19 year old in 1999. Still in high school at the time,
Jimin no longer met the age qualifications to play at the high school
level, but still practiced with the team while she prepared for
1999, she also played at the final Safeco Classic, the local LPGA
event, where she got to know Se Ri Pak among others. Jimin made
a lot of friends by making the cut on the number. In so doing, she
allowed about a dozen other players to also make the cut, earning
paychecks for that week. Of course, as an amateur, Jimin did not
make any money, but she did impress those who saw her play, including
then did something few golf prodigies do. She put away her clubs
and for five months pursued other interests. When she picked them
up again, she was ready to move to the next level.
enrolled at Arizona State University in 2000, where she made more
noise. Perhaps her most notable accomplishment was winning the 2002
PAC-10 Championship, handing Lorena Ochoa her first defeat in eight
after the U.S. Women's Open in 2002, Jimin announced her intention
to turn pro. She went to the Futures Tour to play a few warmup tournaments
in preparation for LPGA Q-School. Imagine her surprise when she
won the first Futures Tour event she entered, the M & T Bank
Loretto Futures Golf Classic, again beating Ochoa by a stroke! She
was leading her second Futures Tour event going into the final round,
but had some problems in the last round and had to settle for fourth
to Ochoa. Still, a pretty good average for only two events played!
had high hopes entering Q-School, and indeed, going into the final
round she was comfortably in the range of an exempt card. Alas,
things went wrong, and after a final round 78, she missed getting
her exempt card by one stroke. Thus she went into the 2003 season
as a non-exempt player. It proved challenging for her. She had a
couple of good finishes, but never contended, and finished well
down the money list. Fortunately, she was able to maintain her non-exempt
status at Q-School the following October, but it was more of a struggle
than it had been in 2002.
in 2004, Jimin decided to focus on the Futures Tour. It proved to
be a wise decision. She managed 8 top tens on the year, including
two victories, to top the Futures Tour money list in 2004 and thus
earn her LPGA exempt card for the 2005 season. This marked the first
time that Jimin had been exempt for the year, a golden opportunity
for her to see how she stacked up in the big leagues.
she took advantage of it! In 2005, Jimin was having a decent season
early on, even notching her first ever top 20 with a 19th place
finish at the Michelob Ultra. But nothing prepared the LPGA for
what happened at the Corning Classic. Despite the presence of Annika
Sorenstam in the field at a time when she had only lost one event
all year, it was Jimin who came out on top. And she did it in spectacular
fashion, by making a hole in one to take the lead with just a few
holes to go. Her thrilled reaction was one of the best in the history
of the league. She went on to just hold off rookie Meena Lee for
her first top ten AND first LPGA win. The next week, she set her
best ever score by shooting a 62 in the final round of the ShopRite
Classic. She also set an LPGA record by shooting a 27 on the back
nine in that round, the first LPGA golfer to ever do so.
rest of her season did not live up to the heights of that two week
stretch, but she still finished the year in the top forty on the
money list with a two year exemption. She has plenty of time to
see where her talents will take her in the future.
2006 season was decent, but was severely truncated due to a foot
injury she suffered during the LPGA Championship midyear. She missed
most of the rest of the year after that. Fortunately, her 2007 season
was injury free and a return to form. Although she did not claim
a win, she had good finishes in all four Majors, highlighted by
a tie for 16th at the US Women's Open, and finished the year with
a top ten at the Tournament of Champions. She just missed out on
finishing in the top forty on the money list.
was another decent season for Jimin. She finished 51st on the money
list, with three top tens and over $300,000 in earnings. She did
a little worse overall in 2009, but had her first top ten in a Major
when she finished tied for 8th at the Kraft Nabisco.
was a fantastic year for Jimin, highlighted by her second career
win at the Sime Darby Malaysia. At that tournament, she was unstoppable
in the final round, making birdies on 3 of her final 4 holes to
shoot a 65. The entire back nine she was in a fierce battle with
American star Juli Inkster, who was trying to become the oldest
player to ever win on tour. Inkster had a one shot lead over Kang
when Jimin birdied the 18th hole to move into a tie for the lead
while Juli waited in the fairway for her turn. Inkster then hit
her approach into a bunker and could not get it up and down, thus
giving the win to Jimin.
Jimin's other highlights of 2010 was her best ever Major, a tie
for 7th, at the LPGA Championship, and a tie for 8th at the Mizuno
Classic. Kang also had her most lucrative year on tour, earning
over $500,000, recorded her best scoring average by far with a 71.81
(28th in the league), and achieved her best money list finish, 22nd.
was not as good a season for Kang as 2010 had been, but she still
finished in the top 40 on the money list and had one great tournament.
At the Hana Bank Championship in Korea, she finished tied for third.
That was her sole top ten of the year. In 2012, she made a little
more than $100,000, with one top ten at the Honda LPGA event in
Thailand. She finished 69th on the money list.
2013, Jimin only played four full events before an undisclosed medical
problem sidelined her for the rest of the season. Her best finish
out of those four events was a tie for 13th at the RR Donnelly Founders
Cup in March. Jimin played more events in 2014, but only made $41,000.
Her best finish that season was a tie for 32nd.
to most, Jimin was suffering from longstanding medical issues that
threatened her career. In 2010, her allergies became worse, causing
her to take at times a dozen pills a day to control them. By 2013,
things got so bad, she checked herself into the Mayo Clinic for
testing. Their diagnosis: she was overmedicated for her allergies.
Though they completely purged the medication from her system, they
warned her it might take years to fully recover.
took most of 2013 off, not even swinging a golf club until late
in the year. She tried playing a casual round of golf late that
year, but even with a cart, she didn't have the energy to finish.
2014, she tried to push through it, but overexerted herself. By
September of that year, she was prepared to quit golf entirely.
But by the end of the year, she started to feel better, and in 2015
decided to play on the Symetra Tour. Despite being rusty, she finished
4th in her first start on that tour, and won the fourth tournament
did not play at all on either the LPGA or Symetra Tour in 2016.
She may have retired, but she still has status on those tours if
she wants to try again.