CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Remember that feeling you got as a kid during the holidays or a birthday where you just couldn’t wait to open your presents? Trevor Immelman equated that same emotion to the vibe around his International team ahead of the 2022 Presidents Cup this week.
“It’s kind of like Christmas morning when you can’t wait to open your presents up. That’s what I’m seeing from these kids walking into the team room for the first time (Monday night),” said Immelman on Tuesday at Quail Hollow Club. “So that’s what’s fun for guys like me and (Adam Scott) and the captains, (Hideki Matsuyama), that have been here before. It’s good to see that excitement out of them.”
Like the six captains to come before him, the South African has been tasked with meshing together a team of 12 players – eight of which are rookies – from seven different countries for one week of play.
“He’s been passionate about us being as prepared as possible. To the dinners we’ve had, to the trip we had out here a couple weeks ago, to just even earlier this week the last couple of days, it’s just been eyes forward,” said rookie Cam Davis of how Immelman has prepared the squad for the week. “We’ve got a job to do. We’ve got the best chance we’ve ever had to do it with the preparation we’ve got and the strategy we’ve got in place to try to make it all work.”
“It’s one of the areas that’s been quite a hurdle for us over the years, trying to make sure that everybody is comfortable together,” explained Immelman. “Like you’re blending seven or eight cultures and trying to get everybody in their sweet spot.”
The International squad is starting to see the results of that culture being built, especially with regard to Joohyung “Tom” Kim. The 20-year-old from Seoul, South Korea, is making his debut for the Internationals in their biennial bout with the Americans after a PGA Tour season last year that featured 10 made cuts in 11 starts with six top-25 finishes and a win at the 2022 Wyndham Championship last month. Kim’s youthful exuberance has been key for the Internationals, who are looking to win on foreign soil for the first time in the Cup’s 28-year history.
“And for a guy like Tom Kim to be able to be hanging out with Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama in the team room last night, I mean, I wish you could have seen the kid’s face,” Immelman said with a smile. “It was just pure joy and excitement and anticipation for the week.”
“I wouldn’t say I’m a big trash talker. I’m a jokester with the guys I’m close with. And the whole team, I feel like I have a really good relationship with,” said Kim of his role on the team. “So I just, as the youngest team member, you know, I just like to joke around a lot. I’m lucky enough that they don’t give me (expletive) for it. But I’m pretty fortunate.”
The captain wasn’t the only member of the team to single out Kim’s efforts so far in helping the team gel together.
“He’s got a great sense of humor. Brings a lot of positive energy,” said Sungjae Im. “He’s obviously the youngest player on the team, so he’s kind of the baby. But brings a lot of positive energy and a lot of humors to keep the energy very light and lighthearted.”
“There’s definitely different identities, cultures, likes, dislikes. This year, we’ve done a great job,” added Sebastian Munoz. “I feel like it’s always been kind of tough to integrate the Koreans with us, but I feel like having Tom on the team, he’s super fluent and super funny so he really helps the whole team kind of mesh in that aspect.”
“I think, if anything, a lot of the guys on this team have been traditionally pretty reserved, and it’s great having a young guy on the team,” said Davis of Kim. “I’m sure he’s like that all the time. To be honest, this is the first time I’ve spent time around him. I’m enjoying it. I could see myself spending more time around him after this week because he’s a lot of fun. His attitude is almost matching that of Trevor, which is, for as many guys being as passionate as he is, it’s awesome.”
Kim has dreamt of unleashing “crazy first bumps” in this event since he was a kid, and he’s not taking the opportunity for granted.
“We have a really great bond, like a lot of rookies and a couple of veterans,” said Kim, “so it’s a great vibe. Again, like we said, a lot of young guys and a lot of veterans so it kind of evens it out. It’s definitely enjoyable in the team room.”