U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Kim Getting Hip to Golf Again Following Surgery July 31, 2016 | Springfield, Pa. By Lisa D. Mickey

Dylan Kim returns to competitive golf this week after undergoing hip surgery that kept her sidelined her last season. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

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It was pretty surreal for Dylan Kim to return to the Baylor University campus using a walker.

She was 19, and had just undergone surgery in October 2015 to remove a 4-inch tumor from her hip joint. The surgery was successful and the tumor was benign, but the 2015 All-American would spend six weeks using a walker, crutches, a wheelchair and eventually a motorized scooter to get around campus.

“It was frustrating,” said Kim, of Plano, Texas, who is competing in her third U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship this week at Rolling Green Golf Club. “I tried to rush my rehab a few times, but I stopped because it was painful.”

As a freshman, Kim had been a big part of Baylor’s successful 2014-2015 season. She finished fourth individually at the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship and helped the Bears reach the championship match before suffering a 3-2 loss to Stanford.

She also led Baylor to its first Big 12 Conference Championship.

Things were rolling along well for Kim, but one day during a team workout, the Texan felt a sensation in her left hip that caused concern.

“We were pushing a weighted sled and it felt like something was slipping in my hip joint,” said Kim. “It was very painful.”

Kim went to her team athletic trainer and they couldn’t diagnose the problem. They iced her hip, but when the condition didn’t improve, they sent her to a doctor for X-rays and an MRI.

“That’s when they found this massive growth in my hip,” said Kim. “It was a shocker.”

Even when she was younger, Kim said she had always experienced tightness in her left hip. If she sat for a while and stood up, her hip often felt sore and stiff. But it didn’t hurt until something during the workout caused the pain to flair.

Kim had noticed that she was not as flexible in her left hip when she played golf. Often, she felt as though she couldn’t “get through shots as well.”

“I wasn’t sure why, so I just played through it,” admitted Kim.

The MRI revealed a tumor located deep inside Kim’s hip joint that would require a delicate and lengthy surgery. She visited several doctors who discussed how the tumor would be removed.

“The tumor was hard to reach, but they always reassured me I would be able to play golf after recovery,” said Kim. “I was at least comfortable about that.”

 

As expected, the growth was embedded deep amid tissue and bone. The surgery took 3½ hours.

“They surgically dislocated my hip, cut through my hip bone, removed the tumor and put everything back together using two surgical screws,” said Kim, who spent several nights at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Temple, Texas. “The nights after the surgery were very, very painful.”

The stabilizing screws are still in Kim’s hip. They don’t set off airport metal detectors, but the screws are noticeable at times, and the swelling is inevitable whenever she crams too much walking and hits too many golf balls in a day.

“If I were to lie on my left side on the hard floor, it doesn’t feel very good,” she said. “I know they’re there.”

Kim began rehabilitation several times a week in January 2016, starting with a stationary bicycle before adding stretching and mobility movements. She completed rehab in early June 2016, but is still focused on regaining strength in her left leg.

“I finally graduated to weights and light jumping,” she said. “It was hard, but I could feel myself getting stronger.”

Six months after her October surgery, Kim also started swinging a golf club. Once she could stand on both feet, she began hitting short chips and putting. In April, she hit her first full shot.

“I was a little bit nervous because I wondered if I had lost my distance or if I could still hit it as well,” said Kim, who began playing golf at age 9. “It had been a really long time since I could swing a club and I was really bored while I couldn’t play. Most of all, I missed it.”

Baylor struggled without Kim in the lineup. The team that finished second in the 2015 NCAA Championship didn’t qualify for the 2016 regionals.

“It was hard to watch my teammates struggle,” said Kim, who was a medical redshirt last year and will return as a sophomore this fall. “Going back to school, I will definitely appreciate college golf more and I hope I can help them be a little more positive. I know they will come back stronger this year.”

Kim also hopes to return to this week’s USGA championship stronger and more determined than ever. In her best USGA finishes, she reached the Round of 64 in the 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior and the Round of 16 in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur.

Kim knows she will have to be careful walking the hilly terrain at Rolling Green Golf Club this week. She plans to stretch, take her fair share of Ibuprofen and will remember what she has learned in the last year about quality versus quantity when it comes to practice.

“My hip can get a stinging sensation when I work out too much or hit a lot of golf balls,” said Kim. “I won’t go hit a bunch of balls on the range after walking this golf course this week, but I have high expectations to play well.”

The teen is eager to begin stroke play on Monday. She is also ready to return to college golf and to Baylor for three more years, where she is majoring in finance.

Most of all, Kim says she won’t be taking any of her collegiate and amateur opportunities for granted.

“I learned that I can handle a lot of pain, but I also learned to appreciate things more – like being able to run and to walk, because I couldn’t do it for six weeks,” she said. “I’m just going to take it a day at a time, but my game feels really good.”

Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer who regularly contributes to USGA websites.

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