Christina Kim did a little Solheim Cup dance Sunday in Oregon after the Safeway Classic, but nobody complained she was indulging in an excessive celebration.
She danced in her hotel room where nobody could see.
Tenth on the American points list, Kim survived a nerve-racking wait at Safeway to hold on to the final automatic qualifying spot and make her third U.S. Solheim Cup team. Given how she’s struggled to find her form this year, Kim was relieved she didn’t have to depend on being a captain’s pick. She held her breath with Vicky Hurst making a Sunday charge that could have bumped her off the team.
“I was in my hotel room looking at scores, hitting the refresh button on my cell phone every 20 seconds,” Kim told GolfChannel.com. “It was terrifying. I screamed when I knew I had made it, and, I probably did a little dance.”
Kim loves the Solheim Cup, and she loves playing for her country. She sports a formidable 5-2-1 record in the competition, where her passion made her a controversial focal point in the American victory at Rich Harvest Farms two years ago.
With Kim’s fiery celebrations drawing criticism from the Europeans in ‘09, she promises to be one of the lead storylines at Killeen Castle in Ireland in her first Solheim Cup road trip. Both of Kim’s previous appearances in the matches have come on American soil.
In ’09, Kim’s exuberance while teamed with Michelle Wie got the most attention from observers who thought she was over the top.
Mark Reason of the The Daily Telegraph of London wrote: “The two-faced dog of jingoism and triumphalism ripped at the throat of Europe’s players as Kim whipped it on with unrestrained glee . . . Goodness knows what Lee Westwood might have made of it all. He would probably have taken Kim’s wedge and shoved it up her beret.”
John Huggan, a Golf Digest European correspondent, weighed in: “At the risk of being portrayed as a bit of a fuddy-duddy, it must be pointed out that Kim, on occasion, veers into a place where opponents are – however inadvertently – treated with something less than proper respect.”
Even American TV analyst Dottie Pepper chastised Kim in a column she wrote for Golf.com after that Solheim Cup: “I know Christina Kim loves the galleries and is a ham, but she should be a little more respectful of the game. In the NFL, she’d have been given 18 excessive celebration penalties.”
Given the criticism, should we expect Kim to take a toned-down approach to Europe?
“If I change the way I am, I’ll probably have a lot of pent-up energy,” Kim said. “If I don’t release it, it will probably be a bad thing. I’m just going to be me. If I’m loud and jumping up and down, I’m loud and jumping up and down. It just depends on the moment.
“There will probably be moments where I’m so focused, I have to remind myself to breathe. There will be other moments where I’m so overwhelmed with emotion, I’ll let out a roar.”
Kim wants to make it clear she doesn’t believe she was over the top in her reactions to shots two years ago. She doesn’t believe she crossed a sportsmanship line.
“We have a lot of really fiery players on our team, and I think electricity will circulate through all the matches,” Kim said. “I don’t think I will be any, quote-unquote, leader of the pack in a cheerleading sense. I didn’t think I was last time. Everyone was very exuberant and passionate about representing her country.
“The thing is, what people don’t understand, is that when I celebrate, it’s to celebrate the execution of a great golf shot. I’m not celebrating anyone down.”
Kim, 27, said critics overlook that she was also exuberant in acknowledging her competition’s outstanding shots. In the match that drew so much attention, Kim points out she showed excitement congratulating opponents for outstanding shots. She specifically cited lauding Europe’s Tania Elosegui when she won a hole with an eagle and fist-pumping for her when she stuffed an iron shot to 4 feet at the 17th hole in that controversial Saturday four-ball match.
“There was a lot of misconception about what went on, and there were a lot of things said that really hurt me,” Kim said.
Kim wants to celebrate great shots in Ireland, and she’s working to have her form ready to do just that.
“I’ve struggled off the tee, but I feel like I’m striking the ball better,” she said. “Everything’s close to being really, really good, but it’s been so damn frustrating.”
A U.S. Solheim Cup victory would remedy that.