How a ‘delusional positive mindset’ carries this LPGA star

christina kim laughs during an lpga golf tournament

"I couldn't expect anyone else to have this sort of delusional positive mindset if they have never delved into those deep trenches of human emotion."

Getty Images

It’s been a trying 2021 season for Christina Kim on the LPGA Tour, but you wouldn’t know it by her five-under 65 Thursday. And you certainly wouldn’t know it by the boundless optimism she held afterward. 

With five straight missed cuts to her name, and zero top 20 finishes in the last 20 months, one reporter asked a very straightforward question: “How do you stay so upbeat, so positive?”

For Kim, who trailed by three shots after 18 holes, the answer comes down to a “delusional positive mindset” that she’s amassed over the years, rooted in and useful during the not-so-happy times. 

Jessica Korda of Team USA and Nelly Korda of Team USA prepare to putt on the seventh green during the first round of the Solheim Cup at the Inverness Club on September 04, 2021 in Toledo, Ohio.
‘It’s such a weird rule’: Korda sisters question LPGA award neither of them is eligible to win
By: Alan Bastable

“Considering where so many people are in this world,” Kim started, “you know, the number of injustices taking place day in, day out, where we do live in the freest country in the world, you know, we’ve passed the infrastructure bill, which I think is fantastic, and it’s going to provide a great future for the next generations and generations to come.

“But you only get one shot at life, and I have been through a lot in my life and have been on the other end of it where I’ve wallowed in my own misery and ultimately got in my own way. So if this ends up being the last tournament of my season, then great. I may as well enjoy it, and instead of thinking of a miss-hit shot, I’m now just allowing myself to have a new opportunity to have a sick up and down.

“So I don’t know. I’m upbeat because I have been through a lot of adversity in my life in the past. It comes with experience. I couldn’t expect anyone else to have this sort of delusional positive mindset if they have never delved into those deep trenches of human emotion.”

Golf will do that to you, particularly on the pro levels of the game where missed cuts mean lost finances and lost opportunities. Kim, who has won three times on the LPGA Tour, has bounced in and out of the Top 100 in the world ranking throughout her 11-year career. She’s ended years as high as 53rd and as low as 287th. That fluctuation will bring some perspective along the way. 

The next question in her post-round press conference was about her motivation. What gets her going each day?

“Golf,” she said. “I mean, golf is the greatest passion in my life. It teaches you so much about yourself. You learn how to be resilient, accountable, how to be responsible, how to make mistakes, and how to learn from them and try and make up for them.

“You’re never — you know, the way I see it, if I hit it into a divot — actually this happened at the Women’s Open. I hit into my own divot because I hit it into the dead middle of the fairway in a practice round; during the tournament I hit it into my own divot.

“It’s teaching me I’m never a victim. I’m a survivor. In a lot of the different ways. You know, it’s just you’re out in nature. You’re getting to know your fellow players. You get to observe and really read people. You know, you learn so much more about a person playing a round of golf with them than you would with five dinners. You can’t BS your way through a round of golf. Like who you are shows. If you miss-hit a shot, how you react to that shows your character. So there are just a myriad reasons as to why golf is the greatest.

“Why wouldn’t you want to wake up for that?”

We’re right there with you, Christina. 

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.