Saturday 24 March 2018

Kim thrilled by 'stunning' Killeen

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

CHRISTINA Kim thinks she saw Bambi, but from Friday, she will be chasing birdies in the AIB Ladies Irish Open at Killeen Castle.

Kim, the extrovert American LPGA and Solheim Cup player, is part of the finest field ever assembled for a women's professional golf tournament in Ireland.

And while she and the other top players will be chasing the winner's cheque, the sub-text to the week is the Solheim Cup between Europe and the USA to be played in the elegant surroundings of Killeen Castle next year.

That, and the date for the Ladies Irish Open being fixed just after the Ricoh Women's British Open, have combined to attract the stars for the €500,000 tournament.

So far, so good for her Irish visit, says Kim, who enjoyed her first night in Dublin on Sunday evening with friends Kim Welch and Jeehae Lee.

"A couple of the girls and I went down to the Temple Bar area 12 hours after landing," said Kim. "We had a few bevvies and partied it up a bit."

As for Killeen Castle, in Dunsany, Co Meath, Kim said: "We just drove up here and it was breathtaking seeing the castle and seeing the miles and miles and miles of flower and foliage.

"I thought I saw Bambi back there, it was incredible. It's absolutely stunning here.

"I'm feeling very good about my game and the fact that I felt like I had a bad week, and managed to squeeze out a top 10 in a major.

"That is a good sign so hopefully I'll be able to come in and provide a little entertainment while being able to play well at the same time."

A total of 17 Solheim Cup players -- five from America and 12 Europeans -- will compete in the 54-hole tournament from Friday to Sunday.

The US Solheim group are: Kim, Brittany Lincicome, who both tied for ninth last week at Royal Birkdale, Angela Stanford, Kristy McPherson and Brittany Lang.

The European line-up includes the 2009 champion at Portmarnock Links, Diana Luna, who gave birth to her first child three months ago, Suzann Pettersen, ranked fourth in the world, who won the 2008 event and Anna Nordqvist, who is ninth on the Rolex rankings.

England's Laura Davies, who leads the Ladies European Tour's Henderson Money List, will also play, along with Catriona Matthew, Sophie Gustafson, a three-time winner of the Irish Open, Maria Hjorth, Helen Alfredsson, Gwladys Nocera, Tania Elosegui, Becky Brewerton and Janice Moodie.

There's plenty of Irish interest, including Curtis Cup members Danielle McVeigh and the Maguire twins, Leona and Lisa. Other Irish professionals who will play include Hazel Kavanagh, Rebecca Coakley, Tara Delaney, Martina Gillen and Claire Coughlan-Ryan, who has been given an invitation to play after the birth of her first child.

Last week's runner-up at the Women's British Open, Katherine Hull of Australia, finished a stroke behind Yani Tseng at Royal Birkdale.

She brings an international flavour to the tournament, as do South Koreans In Kyung Kim, ranked 10th in the world, and Amy Yang, who tied for third and fifth at Birkdale respectively.

Irish Independent

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