Kevin King: Surgeries unable to keep golf champion from lifelong passion

KEVIN KING, THE WINNINGEST GOLFER IN HHIAGA HISTORY, ISN’T ABOUT TO LET A FEW SURGERIES KEEP HIM FROM A LIFELONG PASSION.

When writing about sports, it’s tempting to go for the easy metaphor, the clichéd turn of phrase. Tiger has lost his bite. The Bulls get gored in the finals. The Patriots get deflated in the Super Bowl.

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But when a guy claims a record nine Hilton Head Island Amateur Golf Association championships, has played in the Senior British Open and is a freshly minted member of the Lowcountry Golf Hall of Fame, and his last name just happens to be King, you almost have to call him the king of Hilton Head Island golf.

But before he was crowned, before he spent decades dominating local amateur golf, before turning pro, Kevin King was just an 11-year-old kid in Winston-Salem, N.C. It was then that he picked up his first golf club.

“I fell in love immediately,” he said.

His love affair with the game landed him his first job in golf, shagging balls at the local course. He got a dollar a bag and could play all the golf he wanted.

Doing a job you love in high school is a rare enough thing, but the endless practice turned out to be its own reward as his experience allowed King to attend the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill on a full golf scholarship.

“I played for four years, serving as co-captain my last year,” he said.

Graduation in 1979 led almost immediately to a career in the pros, playing in and around Florida for three years. And while King’s passion for golf ran deep, he quickly learned that golf at a professional level can be a harsh mistress.

“I got into the finals two out of my three years, but missed my card and said, ‘Well that’s a mess.’ ”

And while the chapter was closed on his professional career, the first lines of his next chapter were written during a chance encounter with a fellow golfer who was opening a mortgage company on Hilton Head Island.

“We’d been here once before, and it seemed like a good fit for me,” he said. “So we decided to go for it.”

After four and a half years, King went into real estate, a career that — let’s be honest — probably involves more golf than actually being a golfer.

“I play a lot of customer golf, so I’ve been able to keep my game sharp,” King said.

That’s an understatement. Vowing to keep practicing after quitting professionally, King amassed a formidable amateur record, winning the state mid-am in 88 and 93 and the state amateur in 1993.

When he qualified for the Champions Tour in 2007, King jumped at the chance, making it into seven different tournaments, including the Senior British Open.

“I had a good time and played well, but after that winter I hurt my hip,” King said. Perhaps “hurt” is too light a word, as King required four hip surgeries, two ankle surgeries and a knee surgery.

“Luckily, my surgeon bought a lot of property, so I got him back with my commission,” King said with a laugh.

Following his surgeries, King was able to reclaim his amateur status, and says that he’s now feeling healthier than ever. And if you don’t believe him, you can just look to his pair of post-surgery state senior championships.

“You’re never going to be 100 percent after that, but I’m excited to get out playing again,” he said.