June 1, 2021 celebrates Women’s Golf Day, a celebration held at 900 golf courses across 68 countries. Thanks to the contribution of many in the golf industry, women have become just as integral a part of the game as men.
For Women’s Golf Day, the Middle Atlantic PGA section celebrates Cathy Kim, a PGA instructor at the 1757 Golf Club in Dulles, Virginia. She has been teaching for over 10 years, starting her teaching career at Sahalee Country Club just outside Seattle, before moving her teaching to Las Vegas and eventually Northern Virginia. Throughout her time as an instructor, Kim has used her passion for teaching golf to both teach new and experienced players alike and show how golf is about more than the course and the scorecard.
Kim started playing around the age of 10, falling in love with the game as she played and eventually taught. She has been inspired to remain in the golf industry by many female professional golfers including fellow Koreans Se-ri Pak and Mi-Hyun Kim, and 10-time major winner Annika Sörenstam, alluding to Sörenstam’s work in increasing girls’ participation in golf.
As a professional, Kim possesses many credentials. She is a dual member of the PGA of America and LPGA, and has competed as a pro on several tours, including the Cactus Tour, Symetra Tour, and LPGA Q-School. She placed third in the 2020 MAPGA Women’s Professional Championship, finishing just two shots off the lead. Her time as a PGA professional has followed an impressive playing career at Western Washington University, where she lettered all four years, and won two collegiate titles.
However, where Kim is most recognized today is not necessarily her tournament results, but her work in bringing women onto the course. She has instructed countless individuals across all skill levels, with the purpose of growing and expanding golf to all people. Kim’s passion for growing the game comes from a philosophy of ‘Golf for All,’ which is embraced on her website.
“[Golf] isn’t an elitist sport, you don’t have to be rich, and though there’s nothing wrong with the country club, we need to remove the smug attitudes and let all enjoy the game of a lifetime,” her website states. “Golf is for children, families, business, and above all, it should be fun.”
‘Golf for All’ has become more than a motto for Kim. While she acknowledges the elitist perception of the sport, more opportunities have been created for the general public through her instruction. The 1757 Golf Club features programs not available at certain country clubs around the area, a trend Kim has noticed among many public courses.
“Public and municipal golf courses have been able to create programs that are inviting to everybody.” Kim said. “Through that type of programming, more and more people are able to pick up a club.”
A game that has been (incorrectly) viewed as an elitist sport in the past has become just the opposite in Kim’s time as an instructor. Greater numbers of women and girls have begun to play golf and even influence how the sport is played and perceived.
“I’ve seen an explosion of female golfers over the past five years,” Kim said. “Watching my book change from mainly male students to many adult females and girl students has been amazing to see. Groups that often cater to the male golfer have now been forced to cater to the female golfer.”
Kim’s programs, named ‘Women Who Golf’ and ‘Girls Who Golf,’ allow for women of different backgrounds to come together around the game in a friendly environment. As a female instructor, she has connected with her fellow students from the minute they start their first lesson, with a secure environment always remaining her priority.
“On the first day, I will get several different women from all different backgrounds, and they worry about how they will be judged,” Kim said. “But people view my classes as non-judgmental which makes them glad to take the class.”
As a Korean woman, Kim has been passionate about creating more diversity in the game and strives to do so through her instruction. Not only does she strive to create diversity among players, but among golf industry professionals as well.
“To be able to see someone that looks like you that is playing golf, working at a course, or being on staff is helpful and makes golf less intimidating for all people,” she said.
Social media has changed how the game is perceived, creating a ‘fun’ perception of golf through trick shots, highlights of professionals, and many other unique elements of the game. Kim uses social media to give lessons like she would at the course (which was especially utilized during the pandemic), while also promoting the fun side of golf.
She has built an Instagram following of over 25,000, allowing her lessons to not only reach current students, but also expand the sport to an international audience. Kim’s social media presence as an instructor has brought a more diverse audience into golf, reaching interested golfers from all over the world.
“My Instagram account is focused on fulfilling my mission of creating an equal access sport,” Kim said. “I’ve been able to meet people from different states and countries that I never would have met. More faces with different backgrounds are posting their golf journey on social media, and that has helped diversify the game.”
Modern day golf provides many opportunities outside of simply competing in 18-hole tournaments. Not only are lessons available in multiple capacities, but programs such as Drive, Chip, and Putt and PGA Jr. League give an opportunity for kids to compete in a format which allows opportunity for all skill levels.
Not only does Kim enjoy teaching players who want to get involved in competitive golf, she also embraces the different variations which create access to the game.
“If you were to ask someone 10-20 years from now [if they play golf] and that person said yes, you would probably then ask what type of golf they play,” she said.
Kim’s teaching goes beyond fixing a swing. She builds community with the women and girls she teaches, a bond created through their status as aspiring female golfers. This community shows golf is not only a sport for all, but a community where people can talk about improving their lives, whether picking up the sport as a hobby or for competition. This community building was alluded to by Kim, particularly for her ‘Girls Who Golf’ class.
“The Girls Who Golf classes are golf-based, but that’s not the only aspect.” Kim said. “We talk about life and societal pressures they deal with as they grow up. These aspects are great as a group to talk about because it shows that you are not alone. It’s especially important as an athlete to be able to express your feelings, and that’s all part of the programming.”
She strives to gives all players a positive experience from golf, regardless of skill level or age. Her community-based approach is one of her goals in creating a positive experience for her golfers. Working with students from all different backgrounds, Kim helps them become more confident and comfortable on and off the golf course.
“At the end of the day, I just want [my students] to want to come back to golf, whether that is tomorrow, or 10 years from now,” Kim said. “It’s a confidence booster to say that ‘I play golf,’ and [my students] come back and want to thrive in golf.”
Her work has earned Kim recognition from many outlets within the golf industry. Kim was recognized as a top young instructor for 2021-22 by Golf Digest. She has also received several other awards, including top 25 instructor recognition from Golf magazine, and top Korean instructor. Kim is not only grateful for those awards, but understands her recognition comes from how she has influenced others through her teaching.
“To be a minority within the industry makes winning these awards a lot more special to me,” she said.
Kim’s love of golf got her into teaching, but her ability to connect with others and see her instruction create a positive impact keeps her most motivated to continue teaching.
“The excitement I see and feel for any new or intermediate golfer gets me up and going in the morning,” Kim said. “To be able to share what golf can do in one’s life just as it has changed my life never gets old. I see the person that wasn’t sure she wanted to take up golf coming back week-in and week-out because they want to learn more and feel like they are a part of something.”
Kim has been able to turn a passion for creating a more diverse game of golf into a reality. Her work to incorporate women and girls into golf while also connecting her students outside of the golf course has earned her recognition from both students and outside media. Kim’s work as a teacher is why the Middle Atlantic PGA section would like to recognize her for Women’s Golf Day 2021.