Kimberly Kim, 18, of Pahoa, Hawaii, is the only player on the 2010 USA Team with previous Curtis Cup experience. Kim competed in the 2008 Match at St. Andrews, helping the USA win its sixth consecutive match in the biennial competition against Great Britain and Ireland. In 2006, Kim became the youngest champion in U.S. Women’s Amateur history when she claimed the title at 14 years of age. Last summer, Kim was the runner-up to Jennifer Song at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and to Amy Anderson at the U.S. Girls’ Junior. She also was a runner-up in the 2006 WAPL to Tiffany Joh. Many thought Kim would turn pro after high school, but she enrolled at the University of Denver last year and has almost finished her freshman year. Kim recently chatted with USGA communications staff writer David Shefter about playing on a second Curtis Cup team and other topics.
A quick thought about playing in the Curtis Cup Match for a second time.
Kim: It’s an honor. I’m excited. It’s one of my favorite team tournaments.
What’s your fondest memory of the 2008 Curtis Cup at St. Andrews?
Kim: There were so many. We had such a good team and we got along well. I had a lot of fun on that team. Probably the most prevalent memory, though, is when Meghan Bolger got proposed to and [team manager] Donna [Mummert] was involved. It was really cool and cute, and her [fiancé] was really nice. It was like the fairytale proposal.
Were you concerned about making this team?
Kim: It wasn’t necessarily anxiety. I was skeptical that I would make the team. Other people thought I would, but I was not sure at all. If I didn’t make the team, I probably would have done a spring inter-term for school. So it was either school or golf… It’s four credits and you go to class every day from morning to afternoon for a week. It was the exact same dates as the Curtis Cup.
A few years ago, people would have been shocked to see Kimberly Kim in college. Give me some thoughts about being at Denver for a year. Does anything surprise you about college?
Kim: Playing for a team is a lot different. I really like it. It’s really good for me because when I’m out there, I’m learning to just appreciate being out there and every stroke really does count. We have a great team and everybody really likes golf. It just makes me want to do better.
How have you improved as a player since coming to Denver?
Kim: Fall season and then winter golf was kind of lackluster. I didn’t play that badly in the fall, but I wouldn’t say my game improved. Now it’s better. I wouldn’t say it’s balanced yet, but it’s really difficult to balance school and golf. I’m having to put school first because it’s really hard, considering I didn’t go to [a regular] school for a really long time.
What’s it been like to be in a regular classroom?
Kim: It’s a lot harder. I’m not used to having to raise my hand. And Denver has like a 13-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. And more than a full-letter grade is [class] participation. And I’m terrible at it.
When was the last time you were in a regular classroom prior to this year?
Kim: I went to Xavier [Prep] all of last year.
How much did that prepare you for college?
Kim: I want to say that it helped a lot. In reality, it really didn’t. When I went to Xavier, I just dropped golf completely. I played the high school tournaments, but I never practiced and I hardly spent any time at the golf course the entire time at Xavier. Here, regardless of the amount of schoolwork that you have, you are going to go to practice. You are going to be on this team.
But did Xavier help you academically for college?
Kim: Yeah. The homework part. I had homework, but I spent the whole day at home… If I came here just as a student, it would be a lot easier.
What classes are you taking?
Kim: As a freshman, there are certain ones you have to take. So I’m taking the core writing classes. I’m taking Spanish. I took a creative expressions class my first quarter, which was my favorite class. I’m also taking an acting class.
Do you have a major picked out?
Kim: I don’t know yet. I probably will start taking intro classes when I figure out what I want to do. I definitely am not majoring in business.
How do you like being away from home for the first time in your life?
Kim: It’s crazy because this [summer] I am staying here. I’m going to have to get a job and pay rent, and taking summer school. It’s crazy because I have to do my own schedule. It’s a lot different.
What kind of job do you want to get?
Kim: I don’t know. Maybe I’ll caddie.
Last summer, you rediscovered your game with those two runner-up USGA finishes after two tough years following the Women’s Amateur triumph. What changed?
Kim: I know I need to work harder to actually win now. Being second-best is not fun.
How do you feel about your game going into the Curtis Cup?
Kim: I’m sure by the time the Curtis Cup is here, it will be a lot better. Now the weather is just starting to get like 70s and the snow is clearing and our courses are opening up. So now I’ll actually be able to prepare.
Anything specifically you are fine-tuning in your game?
Kim: I’m debating about the whole grooves thing. I might want to play with the old grooves. That’s a confusing thing. Obviously working a lot on putting and finding a putter that I want to use.
At the Kraft you had to play clubs that conformed to the new groove rules. Did you notice a big difference?
Kim: Not so much on my iron shots, but on wedge shots. My new wedges are so much different. My old wedges were so easy to hit. Now these are hard. … The irons seem to go farther to me and that’s about it. I’m thinking it’s pointless to use the new grooves [at the Curtis Cup]. I should just use the new ones before the [U.S. Women’s] Open qualifier [in Colorado].
Were you excited to see fellow Hawaiian Stephanie Kono make the team?
Kim: I just got 75 percent more excited about the Curtis Cup. She told me she was going at the ASU (Arizona State) tournament. I was so excited… The last time I knew everybody really well like Mina [Harigae] and Jennie [Lee]. This time, I know people less well. I am not as close to them, but I am sure we are going to get along well.
How will your international experience at the 2008 Curtis Cup and 2006 Women’s World Amateur help at this year’s Curtis Cup?
Kim: Pressure is pressure. If you don’t feel it, then you don’t care.