By Leigh MacKay

The return of Anthony Kim, 38, to a professional golf tour after a 12-year hiatus became a press conference of essence today at LIV Golf Miami. A six-year veteran of the PGA Tour, the former World #6 in 2008, a three-time winner, and a Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup stalwart, Kim left the PGA Tour in June 2012 to have Achilles tendon surgery and then basically disappeared from sight until he re-emerged at LIV Golf Jeddah on March 1.

arlier this week, Kim sat down with LIV commentator David Feherty and recorded a video titled “The Journey Back,” where he attempted to explain why he left professional golf in 2012, what happened in these past dozen years, and why he accepted a Wild Card position on the LIV Tour for 2024.

Previously, the popular belief was that Kim had an insurance policy that would pay him $10-20M in case of a career-ending injury. He admitted to Feherty that a policy did exist but said the non-disclosure clause forbade him from discussing both the settlement and how the settlement affected his return to professional golf. However, he did say that, contrary to this popular belief, he did not take the money and run.

In fact, he also told Feherty that the Achillies surgery was only the beginning of his physical travail, which would also include multiple shoulder surgeries, hand surgery, and spinal fusion. To which Feherty quipped, “You’re like Frankengolfer!” But Kim assumed these injuries had ended his playing days for good, and he gave away all his golf clubs and paraphernalia as a result.

These physical surgeries then sent him on a downward mental spiral that precipitated some
“very low points in my life.” He said, “I really didn’t leave the house. I watched a lot of reality
TV and ate a lot of food and just really hung out with my animals [six pet dogs and two monkeys]
and occasionally had a good time.” He admitted he has forgotten much about this time period but
said that his “addictive personality” controlled his life and that he surrounded himself with too
many bad people and scam artists who took advantage of him. He then assured Feherty he has
discarded these influences from his environment.

Kim now lives in Oklahoma City, has turned his life around thanks to professional help and his family’s love, and is now ready to make an impact in professional golf once again. Kim only began to swing a club again about three months ago and is trying to shake off that decade-old rust. The results have been disappointing thus far with a last-place finish, 53 rd at Jeddah, and a 50 th at Hong Kong a week later, earning the basement money of $55K for each performance. However, in Hong Kong he shot a five-under 65 in the final round and showed some of his former flair. Kim is working on a tell-almost-all documentary about his dark times and struggles that he and his team are producing to help golf fans understand “how low of a point my life got, and how my life will make more sense.” He didn’t say when the documentary would be completed or broadcast.

Kim captivated the audience at the LIV Golf Miami press conference on Thursday with the revelations about his last 12 years. The following quotations are some of his most enlightening thoughts.

ANTHONY KIM: I would say mostly positive. Obviously, there are people that have their opinions that are not kind and positive. But you know, I’m focused on the people that are rooting for me and the people that see some of themselves in me and find some inspiration, and I’ll just keep working on what I’m doing and focus on my family.

ANTHONY KIM: There were lots of factors. Obviously I haven’t done this in 12 years, and being away from the game, so many things have changed that I don’t know all of what’s going on between the PGA TOUR and LIV. I know that, after talking to Greg Norman and a few other people whose opinions I value, they thought it was best for me to go to LIV, and I made that decision

ANTHONY KIM: It’s such a cliché to say it, but I’m very grateful for this opportunity. I’ve obviously gone through some tough things in my life, but I’m taking responsibility for those things.

But with this platform, I’m hoping to help other people understand that life, you know, can throw a lot of s— at you, but you go through tough things and they make you tougher, and you can make it through. You know, fortunately, I’ve had some great support: the love from my daughter Bella [Isabella] and my wife Emily and my mom have been amazing. They have helped me through some tough situations, and I look forward to talking more about it with my documentary. But for right now, I’m focused on golf and helping others. My goals for this season and moving forward are to work as hard as I can, be focused which I don’t think that I ever have been. I appreciate the opportunity going on around me and the platform that I have and to be able to make a difference in the world, as crazy as that sounds. I feel like I will have the opportunity to do it, and the better I play, the louder my voice gets. And so, hopefully, if I play some good golf, I’ll be able to do bigger things.

ANTHONY KIM: I think I probably watched nine holes of golf when I wanted to fall asleep. But I didn’t watch much golf. I just found out from DJ [Dustin Johnson] yesterday playing a practice round with him yesterday that Brooks won back-to-back majors, which is awesome. But I had no clue that that happened.

ANTHONY KIM: Where I was in my life, I really wasn’t focused on golf. I definitely heard that it happened but I mean, you know, going through some of the things I’ve gone through in my life, I wasn’t focused on golf. I didn’t care about somebody who won a golf tournament. There are so many other big issues going on in the world that golf is such a small part of it. And obviously for all of us, it gives us a great platform to be able to speak to a large group of people but at the same time, it’s just golf. 

ANTHONY KIM: Well, first of all, as you know, I owe a lot to my wife and to my mom, and really, mostly to my daughter. When she was born, she came a few months early, and the fight that she went through was hard to watch. At that time, I realized that I would have to change my life and the things that I was doing if I were going to be able to support her, not financially, but emotionally and just to be there for her. So, I don’t know what I would have done, but I was already on the right track. I don’t know that golf was really in the picture until a few months ago, and I’m just grateful for this chance.

ANTHONY KIM: Definitely hasn’t been that long. I want to say it was two months before Jeddah when I started talking to the LIV team and Greg Norman. I started to believe that I was going to play again. I was practicing in Palm Springs three weeks before the first tournament, but I didn’t really know when I would be playing, seeing as my deal with Greg wasn’t even done until the week before Jeddah.

ANTHONY KIM: Over the last few events, I’ve gotten off to really poor starts. It’s just bad golf. It’s not anything that I feel like I need to worry about. Definitely the technology has changed. I’m hitting the ball further after seven surgeries than when I left. Obviously being 38 years old, things crack in your body that you didn’t even know should crack. I’m adjusting to all these things, but yeah, golf is the same. You put the ball in the hole and you add them up at the end.

ANTHONY KIM: At the time of that event, my life was already kind of going downhill. I was making poor decisions off the golf course, and obviously on, missing that many cuts. But I wasn’t thinking about golf at that moment. I wasn’t thinking about golf that year when I was playing. Once I realized after my surgery that it was possible that I would never play again, I was completely okay with that.

ANTHONY KIM: I definitely remember what it feels like to hit good golf shots and be in contention and play well, but I’m a totally different person. I’ve had some experiences that I wouldn’t wish on anybody. But through those experiences, I’ve learned what is important to me, and it doesn’t mean that it has to be important for anybody else but it’s important to me. Whether people believe that I can do it or not, I believe I can do it, and hopefully I’ll be in contention this year. Being a father is the greatest gift that I’ve ever received, and I’m not going to let Bella down.

ANTHONY KIM: There’s not enough time in the day. I would tell him to be patient, to appreciate what you have in front of you, and really to take your time. Because if I took my time, I think I would have realized a lot more things. But I don’t blame anybody but myself for the issues that I’ve had. With that being said, I was thrown into a situation because I had some uccess in golf that gave me different opportunities than a normal 23- or 24-year-old, and I took advantage of that.

Once you get going down that slippery slope, it’s hard to make your way back, and unfortunately, I just kept going downhill and somehow, I’ve made it through. I’m sitting here in front of you just feeling really honored and blessed to be here because there’s a lot of reasons I shouldn’t be here right now.

ANTHONY KIM: I talked to people I trust, and people were concerned about what I was doing and the place I was in. But I got professional help. I think that I didn’t deal with a lot of the trauma and whatever came from my life, and I buried it because I didn’t want to show anybody weakness, right. And I thought by showing vulnerability, that was weakness, and I’ve come to a point in my life where I don’t care if somebody thinks that about me or not. Bella is all I care about, and I know it almost sounds corny for me to say, but as long as she’s proud of me, I’m a happy man.

ANTHONY KIM: I feel very comfortable. I have a great support system. People that love me, whether I play golf or not. I don’t know that I could have said the same when I was 23, 24 years old with the people I was hanging out with. Again, they weren’t all bad people. I made these poor decisions. But I have people now that if I even think about going in a bad direction, that they are going to let me know their opinion and I really appreciate that. I’m so grateful to have such a great team around me.

Whether people believe that I can play good golf or not, I believe I can do it, and I hope to be in contention this year.

ANTHONY KIM: Not to get too far into it, but when doctors are telling you that you may not have much time left, that’s a pretty rude awakening. I still think about it to this day when I’m out there and I get frustrated with my golf to know how far I’ve come. I’m going to share my journey, and maybe people can find inspiration and strength from it. I hope it can influence them in a positive way.

ANTHONY KIM: Tremendously. I used to get a lot of my self-worth from what I shot that day. I think that a lot of athletes and a lot of business people feel that how you do that day at work determines how you feel about yourself.

At this point in my life, I’m able to separate those two, which I feel like is a super power right now. I know that whether I make a 15 or whether I make a 3, my daughter is still going to want to eat strawberry ice cream, and I’m going to do that with her. That’s the most fun part of my day. Through these experiences with my family I appreciate them more, and it makes golf a lot more simple.

Photos by Vicky MacKay 

Leigh MacKay

As a caddie, greenkeeper, and Ouimet Scholar from Marshfield Country Club on Boston’s South Shore, Leigh developed his love for the game at an early age. The BA from Amherst College and MA from Dartmouth prepared him for his 36-year career in education, most of it teaching Advanced Placement English and coaching varsity golf. In 1986, a sabbatical from teaching students to writing stories for “Golf World” magazine prepared him for his second career in golf journalism. Leigh is a low-handicap golfer who has won the Golf Writers Association of America’s championship seven times. He is currently a member of Southers Marsh Golf Club in Plymouth, MA, and PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, FL.

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