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Interview: Min-Young Lee Wins Game after Overcoming Kidney Cancer

Min-Young Lee entered SKKU’s College of Sport Science and became a professional golfer in 2011. She may appear to have splendid results like other famous players, and experts say that she is considered as one of the top players due to her steady practice. She actually _nished second place twice during her rookie year, won a game at the Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) of Korea Tour in 2013 and marked her second win in 2014. Unfortunately, she suffered from stomach pains during a Ladies European Tour (LET) held in China in March, 2015, and was diagnosed with kidney cancer. After having surgery, she had only a two month break before returning to the _eld. She _nally won the cup at the KLPGA Tour again held in China in this July after 14 months from the surgery. Korea has won this tour for four consecutive years thanks to her victory. She is not complacent, but is still playing very well on tours. The Sungkyun Times (SKT) met Min-Young Lee to listen to her “triumph for man.”

Q1. What prompted you to start playing golf?

Most golf players enter the world of golf because of their parents who are interested in it. In my case, however, it was simply out of my own curiosity. My parents had nothing to do with golf. I had no opportunity to experience this sport when I was little, but I watched a golf game on TV by chance when I was eleven. It was the _rst time that I encountered this sport, and it seemed like a good opportunity. It was also special to me because there was no one who played golf around me. Therefore, I asked my father to allow me to play golf and started to learn golf with my brother. Contrary to my brother who easily got tired of it, I felt an interest in it. I continued learning and turned professional at 19.

Q2. What kind of efforts did it take for you to build your skills?

I gave up a normal way of life as a student to practice golf. I did not attend school from the age of eleven. Instead, I practiced golf for 12 hours at the driving range. I just went to school for exams, and lived a simple life without friends and memories like going on field trips. Sometimes, I thought about quitting this kind of life and envied students who wore school uniforms, spending time with their friends. Also, I was mentally stressed out because I had to be evaluated for my skills from an early age. However, I could continue my practice thanks to my passion for golf and my parents who had always supported me.

Q3. How did you feel when you were diagnosed with cancer during your practice?

At first, I thought that it was a misdiagnosis because it is uncommon to have kidney cancer in adolescence. However, Samsung Hospital confirmed the diagnosis and concluded that it was a malignant tumor. I cried a lot for almost a week while waiting for surgery because it was frightening and I had to see my parents who were so apologetic to me. I joined many sites to gain information, but it made me have more negative thoughts instead. In addition, I was distressed since I could not practice while other players were taking part in games. Therefore, I tried to recover as quickly as possible and occasionally practiced to dismiss my negative thoughts.

Q4. Did you not have any difficulty returning to the field as soon as you recovered?

Actually my doctor recommended me to return to the field after four months of recovery, but I really wanted to have a chance to be in the tournament. That is why I came back to the field only after two months. Because of this early comeback, I had several physical difficulties. My driving distance became shorter, since I could not tighten my stomach when I hit the ball. In addition, I felt a pain in my stomach when part of the surgical sites were stretched while swinging. These obstacles made me feel like it was harder to play golf compared to the past. Thankfully, however, my parents respected my decision and just advised me not to work too hard on it despite the fact that they were worried about my health.

Q5. Do you think you have greatly changed as a professional golfer after struggling against cancer?

My overall attitude toward my life has changed completely. I wanted to be in the Hall of Fame before, so my records used to set the mood for the rest of the day. However, I realized that pursuing wealth and fame might be a foolish thing if I was not happy. Now, I try to fully enjoy my life and take some time to relax instead of dwelling on scores. I used to visit other regions and countries during the match, and I got into a habit of traveling these areas after the match. Moreover, I will spend time with my family during this Chuseok holiday period to make valuable memories instead of participating for the match. Some people considered me weird, but I think that it is the most important thing to satisfy and live my life to the fullest. It also made me concentrate more on the play.

Q6. Do you have any words for fellow students who will meet challenges while achieving their goals?

Most of all, I want students to find their own standards and not to compare themselves to others or follow others. I have seen a lot of people who lived up to social standards, while failing to find what they really want. I felt sad to see them because I thought that it was not really a meaningful life. If you make an effort to achieve what you truly believe, you will gain courage to easily overcome those difficulties. When I realized that I had kidney cancer, the most devastating part was that I could not play golf anymore. However, this mindset enabled me to beat cancer quickly. That is why I hope Kingos to see themselves objectively and make sure that their current goal is what they really desire.

석소은  sou2146@naver.com

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