The effervescent Christina Kim, a two-time winner on the LPGA and veteran of three Solheim Cups, tees up in the Helsingborg Open at Vasatorps Golfklubb this week. Here, Kim discusses being in Sweden and talking Swedish, among other things.
Tell us about your first experiences in Sweden.
I came from the west coast of the US and arrived yesterday afternoons it was a bit of a long trip, but I’m very excited to be here. I actually didn’t know what to expect in terms of the landscape and topography and it’s a beautiful country. It’s been a stressful 24 hours since I’ve been here but a lot of fun.
What does your schedule entail this week?
My number one priority is golf but Helsingborg is a beautiful area and I know that on just the other side of the water there is Hamlet’s castle. I might go check that out and see all the sights but my number one priority.
What do you hope to bring to the tournament this week?
Hopefully a fair number of birdies! I’ve come off a few fairly rough weeks in the US but August is over! I very much like the month of September! Hopefully a little bit of colour and excitement. I have friends from Sweden and Scandinavia and all of Europe so I’m happy to be here and love playing the LET. I’m just so happy that we are able to have a tournament in Sweden.
What is your opinion of the golf course?
Today was the first time I played it and I was very impressed. It was absolutely beautiful. The greens are very undulated and tricky so they require very good approach shots and a lot of run off areas, so it’s a combination of links style golf and Donald Ross-y with the bold greens and the run-offs. Absolutely stunning. I really like the stone walls that they have on the course. It’s very picturesque and will present a good challenge. Some of the best golfers in the world are from this country so I’m sure there will be some low numbers this week.
Does it remind you of anywhere else?
It does remind me a little of Killeen Castle, where we played The Solheim Cup in 2011. It’s very unique though. There are a couple of holes which are reminiscent of Killeen Castle. The third, an intricate little par 5 with a tree on the right side of the fairway that comes into play with the second shot. Every hole could be in a picture book. There are no easy holes. Even the short par 3s are very demanding with water in play, the greens slope away from the middle so it puts a premium on ball striking.
What convinced you to come and play here?
Helen Alfredsson! I saw her at the British Open and she asked me if I had any interest in coming to Sweden. She said the tournament’s coming back on the schedule and would I be interested in playing and I said, absolutely. In all my years travelling I cannot believe I’ve never been to Sweden. I have so many friends from Sweden and Scandinavia and it was a no-brainer, an immediate yes.
The Swedes played a part in The Solheim Cup win recently. How much attention has that got in the US?
I feel like a lot of people all around the world dismissed the European team before the competition started but I know all of the 24 girls and I knew it would be a very strong team and I wasn’t surprised.
You’ve got Caroline Hedwall, who achieved what no other woman has managed to achieve in Solheim Cup history and Anna Nordqvist who is so young but has become a real leader for the team and this is the first Solheim where we didn’t have Laura Davies, Maria Hjorth and Sophie Gustafson but it was very evident to see that they haven’t been replaced but coming in behind them when their careers are finished you have a very strong stock of girls coming in. Pernilla Lindberg, who played very well at the Women’s Open and has shot 63 on multiple occasions. She’s a very fine player. Caroline Hedwall had hip surgery, lost a lot of weight and is still dominating. People failed to realise how strong the team were. With those two, they really led the charge with the European team but they are some of the best in the world. Anna won a major her first year out, the youngest to win a major. You have so many great players, wonderful facilities and the Swedish Golf Federation embrace and love their players and want to see them grow.I saw Fanny Sunesson with Louise Larsson and you can see it is something the country is very proud of. It shows in their players.
What about your own game? Where are you at the moment?
I am in Sweden! (laughter) The way I see it, every time there is a new month, I re-set a little bit! I am not a fan of August: it was a very difficult month for me. Most years August is a tough month. I actually feel good about my game. I’ve been battling some physical injuries and I’m starting to get healthier and I have a good mind set on the golf course! I’m actually very excited to play and hopefully I’ll be able to keep up because I’m playing with Mimmi and Sophie so I’ll be hitting first a lot the next couple of days.
When will you get back to where you were?
I think the golfer I was when I was at my first peak, as I see it; I was a completely different type of golfer. I struck the ball differently and had a different technique and different mindset. I was very young. I turned professional at 18 which is not unusual in Europe but in America is very unusual. I feel like now I’m wiser and have a better technique than I used to, which is very irritating because I have a better technique but not better scores. If you look back at my career, most of the years that I played where I got into the top 20 on the money list, most of that came in the Fall, towards the end of the season. We are stepping into Fall right now so maybe now is a good time for me to shoot back up. I’ll never be the golfer I was; I’ve just evolved into a different type of golfer. I feel more efficient but I think you’re never going to get the same kind of cheering and all the fist pumps and everything. I don’t think I’ll ever be like that again. I’ve been through a lot of things in my life and last time I checked my job means you’re supposed to make birdies, so I’m not going to celebrate too hard over making birdies, because that’s what you’re supposed to do!
It’s still as fun but a different type of fun. Before everything was so new. I’d be like, ‘Oh my God, I made a birdie!’ Now I enjoy the process of plotting round a golf course and executing shots. Again, it’s like, ‘did you hit your driver on the fairway? Did you hit your next shot on the green? Did you make the putt?’ That’s your job!
I look back and I feel a little silly about all the times I had the over exuberant celebrations. It was about perfecting that shot but now I expect that type of perfection with every shot, so it’s a little bit different.
It’s still fun. If nothing else, I’ll able to relish each moment on the golf course and really appreciate the golf course architecture and layouts and the way the courses are designed with irrigation systems involved. I look at them in a different way and it is fun, it’s just not stupid fun. I’m a little bit wiser these days.
A colleague of mine wondered what your magnetic bracelets mean?
I wear the BioFlow bracelet as well as a necklace. There are theories that magnets are good for physical ailments and good for you mentally. I do know, when I was younger, I would sometimes take it off and when I wore it I didn’t notice any benefit but when I didn’t wear it my brain would be a little more scattered and my focus, I didn’t have as much attention to deal. I notice when I don’t have it. For me it’s definitely helped with the pain in my forearms the last three years: I’ve been fighting tennis elbow and it got to the point where I was close to getting surgery done, which was terrifying.It’s been fantastic lately.
I understand your Swedish colleagues have taught you a few words.
Yes, I do know ‘Yabla Fluga!’ (Gesticulates swatting flies). Laura Davies taught me that one! I think Helen taught her that. I know ‘morgon’ and some other words. I’m still trying to learn how to say ‘Sju’ (seven). My caddie Sven is from Gothenburg. It could be a ‘sju-iron’ so my goal for the week is to pronounce it properly. He has friends who have lived in Sweden for 25 years and they cannot say ‘sju’. You might see me walking in the middle of the fairway saying ‘hju, hju, hju!’ I will try to shoot sju-under every day. I can have ‘sju’ birdies.
We have this tournament for three years. Do you think you will return?
I would love to come back. I’ve only been here 24 hours but I was down on the water and it was a beautiful sunset with all the tall skinny people. It’s been a great week and I would love to come back.