It is only just over a year ago that Christina Kim was part of the American Solheim Cup team in Ireland, looking and sounding like the life and soul of the party as so often.
Two weeks later the colourful 28-year-old, known for her pigtails and back-to-front caps, would be celebrating a win in Italy, her first on the European Ladies Tour after two in the States and top 10 finishes in all four women’s majors.
Now things are rather different. The 28-year-old is preparing for the LPGA Tour qualifying school in Florida at the end of this month following a battle not just with her game, but also with depression. At a time when Australian swimming star Ian Thorpe has released a book detailing his struggles with the illness Kim can easily empathise, having been “down to Hades and back” as she puts it.
Thorpe admits he considered places and ways to kill himself earlier in his life, “but then always baulked, realising how ridiculous it was”.
Kim appears to have gone much closer to ending it all.
The Californian wrote a 3,000-word blog on her website in the summer, headlining it “I guess it’s time to address the elephant in the room” and going into great detail about her darkest moments.
She agreed that “a vibrant, effervescent, laughing woman with a great career, [some] adoring fans and the ability to play golf at a level most people only dream of” did not fit the standard image of a person in the throes of depression.
“Yet, here we are. I don’t know when it started, or what caused this, but it has had me in its grips for the better part of two years.
“You feel lost, alone in a sea of people-people that truly don’t give a damn about you, some of whom actually relish in knowing you are suffering. You have no-one to confide in, so you are left with this festering sensation, one that spreads throughout your body, your mind, into your very heart like some noxious poison, and you have no idea how to get the antidote.”
Kim thought about driving into oncoming traffic, “so the pain will be gone, the need to be ’perfect’ or ’happy’ will be no longer necessary, but something always kept me from doing it.”
Then during a tournament in Spain last year she contemplated throwing herself off a balcony into the Mediterranean. Only a succession of telephone calls from her boyfriend stopped her, she wrote.
It took more than a year from that incident for her to write the blog, which she found therapeutic for herself and, she hopes, useful for others.
“If by writing this I am able to help even one soul seek help for what too many of us keep hidden in shame, my life’s work would be fulfilled.”
Kim has described herself as “cautiously optimistic”, but after suffering injuries her golf is a long way from being fixed.
She stands 110th on this season’s money list and 213th on the world rankings, but although she has been a professional for a decade she knows she is still young enough for her best times to be ahead of her.
“My fans have kept me going through a lot of tough times. Everyone goes through stuff in life, we all have our demons and it’s given me a lot of perspective.”
There will be a lot of people wishing her well at qualifying school. The game needs characters and she has been a larger-than-life one at times.