Updated: January, 2017

BIRDIE KIM

The Facts

Korean Name: Ju Yun Kim
Birthday:
August 26, 1981
Rookie Year on LPGA: 2004
Birthplace: Ik-San, South Korea
Best LPGA Finish: Win (2005 US Women's Open)
Best LPGA Major Finish:
Win (2005 US Women's Open)
Best Scoring Average for a year: 73.16 (2005)
Best Season money total: $715,006 (2005)
Best Season Money Position: 13th (2005)
Most Top Tens/Season: 2 (2005, 2007)

Height: 5' 9"
2017 LPGA Status: Category 18

Other Names: Ju Kim
Nicknames: Olive Oyl
Relatives: Bae Gyu Lee (husband)
Sponsors: Alphira (apparel)
How's her English?: Decent
Hobbies: Reading
Road to the LPGA: Birdie Kim finished fourth on the Futures Tour in 2003 to earn exempt status on the LPGA.

Capsule Bio

A great junior player in Korea, Ju Kim turned pro in 2000. She joined the Futures Tour in 2001, and that year finished fourth on their money list, just a couple hundred dollars out of third. In those days only the top three got exempt cards to the LPGA, so she was just beaten out for the final card by fellow Korean Jung Yeon Lee.

In 2003, she again finished fourth on the Futures Tour money list, but this time, the top five got cards, so she got her exemption onto the LPGA tour for 2004.

2004 proved to be a less than great year for Ju Kim, but things started to look up towards the end of the year. At the suggestion of her coach, David Leadbetter, she changed her name from 'Ju' to 'Birdie', a great name for a golfer. And the birdies didn't let her down; she finished tied for 12th at 2004 Q-School to retain her exempt status for the 2005 season.

2005 proved to be a watershed year for Birdie. Halfway into the season, she was already having her best ever year when she scored her first ever top ten, a 7th place at the Chick-Fil-A Championship. But nothing prepared the world for how she played at the biggest event in women's golf, the US Women's Open. Despite the grueling hard course, she kept herself in contention over three days, while other top players fell by the wayside. On Sunday, she surprisingly moved into the lead, but still the commentators focused on the young American players just a shot or two behind her. Reaching the final hole with a one shot lead, she hit her approach into the bunker. No one had made a birdie on this hole since Friday, but Birdie stunned the world by hitting a miraculous bunker shot that tracked perfectly into the hole for a birdie and the win. Just like that, Birdie Kim became the third Korean in history to win a Major, after Se Ri Pak and Grace Park, and one of two to win one in 2005 (Jeong Jang would later win the British Open). Her life changed forever.

Galleries

2007 Photos
2006 Photos
Birdie Photos
Seoul Sisters Pix

Although she did not have another noteworthy performance for the rest of 2005, she still finished 13th on the money list with more than $700,000 earned.

Birdie struggled much of 2006. She did not finish in the top 100 on the money list, but fortunately for her, still has four more years of exemption thanks to her Open win.

2007 was a much better year for her. She actually contended in several Majors, even leading the LPGA Championship late in the game. She capped her year with a second place finish at the Tournament of Champions and the announcement of her impending marriage to a fellow golf pro, whom she apparently met through their mothers. She also beat Morgan Pressel at the World Match Play, in a tantalizing rematch of their 2005 US Women's Open duel. She finished 43rd on the money list, a much better overall season than 2006.

Birdie got married in December, 2007, to Bae Gyu Lee, a fellow golf pro, and after a short honeymoon, was back at work preparing for 2008.

In 2008, Birdie started well, with top 20s in two of her first three events. For much of the rest of the year, however, she struggled. In 2009, she missed most of her cuts, and finished no higher than 29th. In August, she was back home in Korea when she was involved in a horrific car accident. Her neck and shoulders were so injured that she couldn't swing a club for six months afterwards. It took two operations and more than a year to fully recover. She only played two events in 2010, missing the cut in both, and spent the rest of the year recovering from her injuries.

In 2011, Birdie was able to play 11 tournaments, but made only 2 cuts and finished outside the top 125 on the money list. She maintained low status on tour thanks to her Open win.

Birdie only played one LPGA event in 2012, the US Women's Open, and missed the cut. She focused on the Symetra Tour, where she had three top ten finishes including a second place. Not good enough to earn a card, though: she finished 20th on the money list. Thus, she maintained only limited playing privileges on the LPGA for 2013.

Birdie only played a couple of events on the LPGA in 2013, focusing on the Symetra tour instead. But she did not make enough money there to earn a tour card, and so went back to LPGA Q-School in the Fall. She was not able to get a full tour card, but her 23rd place finish did get her category 17 membership for 2014, a slight improvement over 2013.

Alas, Birdie did not play well in 2014; she only made one cut, and finished just tied for 67th at that tournament. She somehow maintained low membership status for 2015. Birdie made only one LPGA cut in 2015, and was not able to get decent status on tour in 2016. She did not end up playing on either the LPGA or Symetra Tour in 2016, and it's possible she has retired.

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