May 26, 2009
By Larry Watts
In Hong Lim took the scenic route to The Ohio State University. But the Buckeye women's golf team is certainly happy she chose to stay in Columbus for four years before she sets out on the rest of her journey.
Born in South Korea, Lim was 13 years old when she moved with her mother and younger sister to Wellington, New Zealand while her father stayed behind and worked as a golf course manager.
"It was too expensive to play golf in South Korea," says Lim, who started playing golf in the third grade. "It would cost around $300 a round because you had to have a caddie and pay for food. It's common for everyone to eat at the golf course.
"My parents wanted my sister and I to learn how to speak English and they picked New Zealand because they had some friends there and it was easier to get a visa at that time. The golf courses in New Zealand are a lot nicer than the ones back home."
According to Lim, life was "a little too boring" in Wellington. "Nothing but trees and ships,"' she says. "It was much too quiet for me."
Although her golf game was starting to blossom, the stay in Wellington only lasted two and a half years. Her father joined the family and took them to Melbourne, Australia, where they opened a Korean restaurant.
Before leaving New Zealand, she captured three tournament titles in 2003 -- the New Zealand Under-21 Plate, the Wellington Regional Secondary School and the South Island Under-23. While in Australia, she won the 2004 Victoria Junior title, the School Sports Australia golf championship and was the two-time winner of the Riversdale Cup in 2006 and '07.
"I didn't really think I was that good of a golfer while I was in New Zealand; I just played because it was fun," she says. "But once I moved to Australia, my game really blossomed and I took more interest in improving. That's when I started thinking about a professional career."
Lim and her family also knew in order for her to take the next step in her golf career she would have to find better competition on a more consistent basis. That's when she contacted a college search agent, who posted her profile on a Web site available to college coaches.
"My phone was on fire and I was getting a lot of emails!" she says. "Coach (Therese) Hession worked me the hardest. She was calling me constantly, so I committed to Ohio State on the blind. The first time I saw the campus was when I came here to attend school (in 2007).
"I wound up making a good choice; I love it here. I've got great teammates and the Scarlet Course is beautiful."
Aside from a couple of tough times in the first quarter, Lim says she had little problem making the adjustment to life in Columbus.
"I had already traveled to some tournaments a few times on my own," she says. "I like adventure, so this wasn't too bad. I call my parents every now and then, but there is like a 16-hour time difference between Melbourne and Columbus."
But she still has not grown accustomed to the difference in the weather. When it's winter in the Midwest, it's summer in Australia.
"Twelve inches of snow was a new experience for me!" she says. "I'm not a big fan of the cold weather. I'm walking around wearing five layers."
Fortunately, she is able to make it back home for the Christmas break. And because of the weather difference, that means she can spend a lot of time on the golf course getting ready for the upcoming season.
However, there was no time on the golf course during her first winter break from Columbus. In November of her freshman year, a nagging back pain was finally diagnosed as a stress fracture, which would put her game on the sidelines for five months.
"I don't know what caused it, but my rehab consisted of a lot of swimming and work on my hips," she says. "They put me in a back brace that looked like a corset and my teammates thought it was pretty funny. They all wanted to try it on."
The 5-foot-5 Lim only had two tournaments under her belt when she played in her first Big Ten Championships. She wound up tied for 10th.
"That was the first time I shot under par (second round) in the States, so that was pretty exciting," says Lim, who wound up posting a 77.28 stroke average through 21 rounds in the fall and spring. "I had spent a lot of time working on the mental side of my game with our sports psychologist and that really helped out in my visualization."
This spring, Lim, or "Ping Pong" as she is known to her teammates (it rhymes with In Long), has led the Buckeyes in five of seven tournaments and carries a team-best 77.04 stroke average through 27 rounds. She tied for 20th at both the Big Ten and Central Region meets as the Buckeyes qualified for the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2005.
"We always thought this was a possibility," says Lim, whose team was third in the Big Ten and seventh in the Central Region. "This team does a great job of supporting each other. Unlike other teams, which have one or two really good golfers, we have a lot of depth and are very consistent with our play."
Now that the NCAA Championships are complete, Lim, who turns 21 in less than two months, plans to stay in Columbus and continue playing in various amateur tournaments during the summer. Her father will also be coming over shortly for the first time to spend a couple of months with her.
"I guess I'll have to start behaving," she jokes. "We'll probably wait until he leaves before I throw a (birthday) party."
With her experience at Ohio State, Lim is more determined than ever to hit the professional tour after graduation.
"I'm going to try some Futures tournaments and, hopefully, I can make it to the LPGA some day," she says. "I think I have a pretty good chance. I can't wait."