The story of Anthony Kim begins not on a golf course but under a bridge. It originates in South Korea, where a child is spending her days and nights among barriers and columns in the biting cold. As a teenager she is helping support two sisters and a brother by working while going to school. When she is older, she will leave for the U.S. with a few hundred dollars and no knowledge of English. One day, when the time is right, she will tell her son these stories about growing up homeless, and, maybe, he will learn about sacrifice.
She will arrive in Los Angeles and marry another Korean immigrant in an arranged ceremony, and they will open up a small herb store. Two days after giving birth to the couple's only child, a boy named Anthony, she will go back to work, rising at dawn with her husband and not leaving until dark.
The business will grow large enough for the couple to open a bigger store on the corner of Sixth and Kingsley. The son will get bigger too, but only so much. His love is basketball way more than golf and he will spend his after-school hours bouncing off the larger kids, chasing down loose balls, doing anything he can to stay in the game. He will run home in the dark, and if his parents aren't there, he will eat a sandwich and then run back out to practice his free throws.
When Anthony returns home again, his father, Paul, will ask his son what he's been doing with his time. Paul doesn't deal in subtlety. His own childhood in Korea, too, was shrouded in poverty, and he carried those memories across the ocean.
What did you do all day, Tony play basketball?
"Do you know how parents are always telling their kids they can be the president?" Anthony says. "My dad was pretty straightforward: 'You are not going to be the president. You are not going to make it to the [NBA]. What you can do is play golf.'"
With his mother, Miryoung, the discipline was always gentler. Anthony could not bring himself to argue with her. But he was always ready to joust with his father, a man who often expressed his love through criticism, with second-guessing and by thickening his son's skin. Hit it here. Hit it there. Why are you hitting driver? Why are you laying up?
"My dad was always saying, 'You have to be tough; you can't be intimidated,'" Kim says. "I wouldn't say he encouraged me to fight, but he encouraged me to understand that if somebody got in my face, I should be the first one to pull back and rip them. So when he said something that I didn't think was right, I'd tell him he was wrong. It backfired on him. That's my dad in me. I think that's where I got my toughness for the golf course."
It's 1 p.m. on the Monday after the Colonial, and Kim is sitting in the TV room at his suburban Dallas home, eating a submarine sandwich, wearing throwback Air Jordans and talking about Kobe Bryant. His girlfriend, Lisa Pruett, is curled up on a chair with a magazine, his personal trainer is finishing lunch, and his friend Paull Veroulis (who has just this day taken a job as Kim's personal assistant) is clutching the guitar of a Nintendo Wii.
Across the room, lying face down on the couch and fast asleep, is a college friend of Kim's from Oklahoma. "Hey, Lane," Kim shouts. "How many more years of college do you have, six?" Lane doesn't move.
This is the home of the man who could be golf's next great player, the son of Korean immigrants whose vibe is a lot more hip-hop and a lot less Seoul, a player whose two biggest goals before the season were to make the Ryder Cup team (he's seventh in the standings after the Memorial) and star on MTV Cribs (still working on that).