Note from No Laying Up: The following is a Nest member submission originally posted to our member message board, The Refuge. After consulting the author/Nest member, we decided to share the story here on our website as an example of the type of stories and discussions that pop up on The Refuge every month and why the message board continues to be the epicenter of our Nest community. On top of full access to The Refuge, a Nest membership includes a monthly member podcast, early access to events, exclusive member merchandise, an annual gift, and the opportunity to play at our year end Nest Invitational Tournament. Thank you to the original poster for sharing, and we hope you all enjoy this epic story!
Original Title: How I met and befriended my childhood hero the "Unicorn," Anthony Kim
I recently posted a couple of photos of one of my putters into the “Show me your Putter” thread that generated some intrigue. The putter in question is a Nike Method Prototype and to my knowledge one of the first to be released to a select number of Nike Athletes (from what I am told 3 to be exact Tiger, Rory and Anthony Kim). The initials on the putter read AK.
How I came to be the proud owner of the putter is what I would like to expand on in this thread.
Before I dive in, I need to provide a little backstory. I was born with a heart condition called Aortic Stenosis and other chronic concerns that go along with the condition. My body never allowed me to participate in contact sports which is how I found golf. The game was a great medium to take my mind off of my condition and allowed me to compete with my peers. I always felt different than other kids due to my condition, but on the golf course those thoughts were never present. I was just focused on the task at hand…getting the ball from the tee to the hole in fewer strokes than my competitors.
Over the years, I had many check ups to go along with a handful of smaller surgeries to address the concerns with my heart. In the fall of 2008, my Freshman year of High School, my doctor delivered the news that I had been dreading my whole life. I needed to have open heart surgery to correct my aortic valve. The medicine and smaller procedures, while helpful, were truly buying more time for my body to develop to have a surgery that would last me longer into my adult life.
My surgery and subsequent recovery took place in the spring of 2009. The surgery was scary, but the challenge was the recovery process. The most difficult part of it all was not being able to play golf. I was able to play a round of golf for 6 months (it felt like a lifetime).
My morale was low, but then a bright spot showed itself. My physician had recommended me to Make-A-Wish Illinois for the opportunity to have a wish granted. A few weeks later I found out that I had qualified. I was truly in shock. There were so many things on my mind in relation to my wish. Where could I go? Who could I meet? How could this all shake out?
One thing I knew was that I wanted to do something related to golf.
The Make A Wish Illinois team walked my parents and I through the process. We talked through the many possibilities of what my wish could become. At the time there was an influx of young talent entering the PGA tour and the idea was floated that I could meet one of them. While all of the players were possibilities one stood out above all others. That person was Anthony Kim. His personality, self confidence, swagger and style of play resonated with me as a 15 year old kid.
I asked if Anthony had ever granted a wish. The answer was no, but only because no one had asked.
The team at MAW (Make A Wish) got to work on planning. They reached out to AK’s team through their PGA Tour contacts. One day I arrived home from school to receive the news that AK loved the idea. He wanted to have my family and I fly out to Dallas in April of 2010 to play some golf. I was overcome with excitement. For the next few months all I could think about was teeing it up with a true PGA Tour superstar. I had new motivation to get back to my new normal as quickly as possible. I went to work even harder on the recovery process. I got stronger, healthier and more confident that by early fall I was back on the course.
Then the time finally came to fly down to Dallas. My wish was set with AK on the Tuesday after The Masters at TPC Las Colinas. It was crazy timing because we boarded our flight on Saturday of The Masters. On that Sunday we watched in awe as AK gassed it on the back 9 on Sunday to become the leader in the clubhouse. It made me believe that I might be meeting a Masters Champion. That story line did not play out, but his play only made me more excited for Tuesday to arrive.
Tuesday finally rolled around and I couldn’t believe I would be teeing it up with my hero in a few short hours. I was nervous that AK was not going to live up to the hype. That the guy I saw on TV was going to be completely different in person.
Spoiler Alert. He was everything I hoped for and much more.
We rolled up to the course to find AK already out front. After a whirlwind of intros, AK escorted me over to our cart. We got acquainted while we drove over to the range for a practice session. We had the range to ourselves which was extremely cool. We hit some shots, he gave me tips, I asked him questions and I had to pinch myself to make sure this was all still real. At one point he turned to me and said, “I didn’t know what to expect today. I thought I was going to be meeting a frail kid who was super sick. I would have never guessed you have been through what you have been through. Life sucks like that sometimes. I’m sorry you had to go through all that shit. I guess it makes it even more important to know that there are people out there who look completely fine but are fighting something difficult. I can already tell you’re a fighter and I admire you for that.”
…Holy shit I had to stop hitting balls at this point. I had known him for 15 minutes and AK already surpassed any expectations I had.
After our range session we made our way to the first tee. I was super nervous to get the round underway, but after a few holes I started to settle in. He kept up with the pointers and I kept up with the questions. AK was an open book with nothing off limits. We laughed about golf tournaments, he gave me some scoop on the ins and outs of tour players, we talked about school and discussed our sports affiliations. At the time I was a Texas fan which AK wasn’t afraid to call out (he attended Oklahoma for college). We ribbed each other like old friends and shared a lot of laughs. I can also proudly report that I dropped a 30 footer for birdie on him to win a hole which had those in attendance going nuts.
We hit all 18 cups and had a blast doing it. I later learned that AK’s agent only agreed to have AK play 9 holes while planning with the MAW team. Apparently after the 9th green AK’s agent pulled him aside and said “Okay AK you’re good to go. All in a day’s work.”
To which AK responded, “Fuck that. I’m playing 9 more with Nick. I’m having fun. If you have places to be, I’ll talk to you later”.
In the moment I didn’t realize the interaction took place. In hindsight, I can not begin to put into the words the level of appreciation and respect I have for that move. I suppose he may be the founder of the TC Way.
Once we wrapped up the round AK asked if we had anything planned for the rest of the day. My family and I were supposed to go siteseeing around Dallas, but had nothing set in stone. He invited my family and I back to his house for burgers and to hang in the pool. I couldn’t believe it. He wanted to hangout more?
I will mention at this time the representative from Make A Wish came over and firmly said, “Okay so this is where the Wish Experience ends. We can not tell you to go or not to go, but this is an independent thing after you leave the course.” I of course thought, okay cool see ya! I’m going to Anthony fucking Kim’s house.
We pulled up to AK’s and got the full tour. The coolest part about the house was a massive putting green in his backyard. Being the Golf Sicko I am, I wanted to roll some putts. AK found it amusing that after a full day of golf all I wanted to do was keep hitting golf shots. We did a few putting games and then he went running inside. A few minutes later he returned with a putter I hadn’t seen before. He handed it to me and said, “Nike is coming out with putters. This is one of the first ones they made. They wanted me to test it and give it some feedback. I’m sticking with my Scottie for now, but this thing is sweet. I’d like to give it to you.”
Again, I was floored. A putter built specifically for AK, something no one had seen before and he wanted me to have it. My mind pretty much liquified but not before accepting the gift.
I putted for another hour on my own while my Step Dad grilled the whole crew steaks. AK had his team of friends staying with him at the time so it was an unforgettable atmosphere.
AK let my family hangout all evening. Everyone was asking questions at this point, and he was asking a ton of his own questions. As the evening turned to night AK offered to have us all stay over. My Mom being the voice of reason graciously declined in favor of heading back to the hotel.
Before we left, AK and I swapped numbers to keep in touch. He also offered that if I was ever in town to hit him up for a Mav’s game or a round of golf depending on the time of year. When the BMW Championship was still at Cog Hill I would go out to follow his group. One year he invited my high school golf teammates and I inside the ropes for a few holes and to watch him practice on the range after one of his rounds. He gave my buddies a ton of flack but let them ask a ton of questions as well.
I will conclude by saying, I still keep in touch with AK. We send each other updates on life events/notable things that we encounter in the world. He seems to be in a great place in life and is truly happy. Anthony is nothing short of a hero to me, and he always will be.
I met AK in 2010 when he was 24 years old. Looking back to my experience (with our favorite word) “perspective” it blows my mind how generous he was. He was willing to spend a day with a 16 year old kid who only wanted golf with one of the best to ever pick up a club. AK’s only motive was to make that kid’s day a little bit better, take his mind off of his medical condition, and to send him on his way with a story to cherish for the rest of his life.
I can say that mission was accomplished.
Anthony changed my outlook on my condition in a way I never thought possible. I no longer have self resentment for being born different, but rather, I am proud of overcoming challenges that afforded me an opportunity to befriend a hero. I am honored to have met AK and even more so to call him a friend.
If you have the means and are so inclined, I could not recommend supporting your local chapter of Make-A-Wish more. Please check out the links below to find out how to support the mission to grant every eligible child’s wish. Without this organization, its staff, the thousands of generous donors, volunteers and of course AK my wish would have never been possible.
If you, a family member or a friend have a child with a medical condition that qualifies for a Wish and you have questions about the process please feel free to send me a note. I’m happy to walk you through the referral process. I am also here to lend an ear if it is needed. I was a child with a medical condition but I know that the experience can be just as hard for the adults in the room (especially if you are a parent). I am a MAW Volunteer and served on the Make A Wish Illinois Associate board for 3.5 years. My DMs are open for those chats so please do not hesitate to reach out.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the story of my putter’s odyssey.
Cheers, crack on, Sláinte!