During our recent podcast with PGA Tour caddie Eric Larson and his longtime friend – the legendary actor and comedian Tommy Chong (the two met while serving time together in federal prison) – the topic of one Anthony Kim came up.
Kim, one of the game’s great mysteries after rising to No. 6 in the world just two years into his professional career and then leaving the game all together in 2012 after a series of injuries, had Larson on his bag for his first two career wins on Tour in 2008, as well as the Ryder Cup that year and the Presidents Cup in 2009.
The working relationship ended shortly after that Presidents Cup at Harding Park, when Larson was let go as Kim wanted to put a buddy on the bag.
“As with anything in life, it’s what you want out of it,” Larson said. “And Anthony – a lot of people think he didn’t work at it very hard, but you don’t get that good without working at it hard. When I worked for him, he worked really hard at times. In the first six months, he won twice, played in the Ryder Cup, was obviously on top of the world, got to No. 6 in the world. But he hurt himself later that year with an ankle injury and then a thumb injury. And he played pretty much injured the next year or two.”
Kim took the world by storm with many – including another caddie he had early on in Scott Gneiser – wondering if he might be the next Tiger Woods.
Naturally, those sorts of expectations capture the imagination of the masses. As a result, there’s a different kind of “normal” for those special players.
Even so, Larson contends the “circus” around Kim wasn’t always a circus.
“It wasn’t always a circus with Anthony,” Larson said. “There were times that Anthony had more of an entourage, but yet there were times where we would work very hard and Anthony would focus on tournaments and then do well. But, you know, Anthony was younger, enjoyed life to the fullest. When I worked for Jeff [Overton], he worked very hard on his game and he was good, too, and made the Ryder Cup the first year. He enjoyed having fun as well. I’ve been fortunate to work for some really, really good golfers. It’s really fun to see the best in the world and see what they can do. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for Calc, Ken Green – actually it was Ken Green and then Calc – Anthony Kim, Jeff Overton and now Harris English, who’s a top young player. Everyone has got their own way of doing things. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for others.”
After some of the injuries, Larson could see Kim might have been losing interest.
“I don’t think his work ethic was the same… I think he still wanted to do well, but I don’t know if he worked at it as hard as he did the first few years,” Larson said. “He always kind of joked and said he wasn’t going to play more than five years. I kinda didn’t really believe him, but as it turned out, I don’t think he played more than five years.
“I think a lot of injuries caught up with him. And as he would fix one of them, another one would come up. And I think he just got frustrated and walked away from the game.”
Like many, Larson also wonders what could have become of Kim on the PGA Tour without those injuries.
“It’d be really interesting to see what Anthony really would have been able to do had he not gotten injured and see where he would have gone, because I know you just don’t get to No. 6 in the world by accident,” he said. “He worked very hard at it and he’s very talented, obviously. Maybe he’ll be back some day, maybe he won’t. I never rule him out.”
“Anthony has ventured off into other business ventures and he’s doing well.”
We’ll get to those other ventures in a minute.
Even after the split, Kim and Larson stayed in touch.
Larson recalled a time in the 2012-13 range when he was out in Los Angeles headed to the driving range to meet his buddy, Chong.
On the way there, Larson received a call from Kim out of the blue.
“I was fortunate enough to meet Tommy at the driving range and Anthony just happened to call me when I was in LA one day and he says, ‘Where are you going?’ I said, ‘I’m going to the driving range to meet Tommy.’ He goes, ‘Can I come?’ I said, ‘Yeah, you can come,’” Larson said. “So, Anthony came. We went there and he gave Tommy a little lesson. Anthony hit a couple of shots and he didn’t miss a shot. It was just like he never left the game. But he gave Tommy a nice little lesson. We’re at this driving range with mats and people are kinda walking by like, ‘Oh, there’s Tommy Chong,’ and doing a double take like, ‘Man, that looks like Anthony Kim.’”
Though Kim and Chong had chatted before – through Larson – that driving range session was the first time they had met in person.
As you can imagine, Chong talks to a lot of people. Everyone wants a piece of him. So, what’s the most frequently asked question he gets? You probably won’t be surprised.
“People always ask me, ‘How do you feel about weed being legal? Marijuana being legal?’ Well, it’s always been legal for me,” Chong laughed. “And that’s the way it is, you know? I’ve got a lot of billionaire friends. And the reason their friends is because they like the action that I create when we go somewhere – restaurants or something like that. They get a kick out of it. You could have a lot of money, but if they don’t know who you are, it doesn’t mean nothing. I like my life. I like learning things. I like being around people who are going to teach me something.”
What might catch you by surprise is what Chong had to say next, without prompting.
“Oh, by the way, Anthony [Kim] wanted – I don’t know if he still does – but he wanted to get into the weed business,” Chong said. “So, we had a little call. He called me up about it. He had a chance to do some investing, or something, in the weed business. I gave him the same advice I give everybody: just wait until it’s legal, federally. Because right now, there’s a lot of scam artists out there. You know. You’re in the golf world around a lot of gamblers and scam artist types. That’s what’s going on in the weed business right now. But once all this is over and it becomes legal federally, whoa, it’s gonna be great. And, Anthony, that’s the kinda guy he is, man, ‘What’s going on, man? I want to be a part of it.’”
You can listen to the entire podcast below, or find it and download on Apple Podcast or Spotify by searching, “Caddie Network.”