CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tom Kim’s clutch birdie to buoy the International team on Saturday evening was unquestionably the moment of the tournament, and the visitors reacted in turn.
As the ball dropped into the side of the cup, Kim turned to his teammates, threw his hat to the ground and let out a ferocious fist pump. Despite a day full of emotional ebbs and flows, the International team’s spark plug still had plenty left in the tank.
“I was already thinking in the back of my mind, ‘If this goes in, what am I going to do?'” Kim later said. “I wanted it more than anything in the world.”
If the celebration was scripted, it didn’t look it. Kim’s joy — equal parts authentic and infectious — matched the energy he’d brought throughout the week. The endearing 20-year-old ran circles around the green as his fourball partner Si Woo Kim did the same. The Internationals were starting to believe.
Things moved fast in the aftermath of a winning putt. Kim was ferried away to fulfill television obligations as his teammates stood off to the left of the green with a newfound sense of confidence. Fans screamed for the Kim’s autograph, while his caddie, Joe Skovron, met with a couple members of the press.
Then came another significant moment. If you weren’t paying attention, though, you might’ve missed it.
As the pandemonium died down and the crowd thinned out, International captain Trevor Immelman walked back out on the green, wedge in hand. In the chaos of Kim’s celebration, the putting surface had taken some damage in the form of spike marks and foot prints, and Immelman intended to repair every spike mark and divot in his sight.
Although the blemishes easily could’ve been handled by the grounds crew on site, Immelman sportingly took it upon himself to fix the damage.
The moment revealed something about the captain, and it’s something that’s become more clear as the week has worn on: Immelman has been the right man for the job — not only for what he’s done for his team but also for how he’s represented the game.
An old adage says that character is what you do when no one is watching. The trials of captaining a short-handed International team has shown Immelman’s character, and his care and respect for the arena in which the game is played has only furthered that reputation.
In Immelman’s position, it would be easy to bemoan the adversity that’s come his way. The LIV defections haven’t made things easy, and the poor luck in coin-flip matches this week hasn’t made the sledding any smoother. Despite it all, Immelman has stood tall, maintained his composure and preached positivity.
This week has gone from one in which the future of the Presidents Cup has been questioned, to one where a Cinderella story is still possible. The odds are long, sure, but the fact that the International team still has hope is thanks in no small part to Immelman’s ability as a motivator.
“The vibe is hopeful,” Immelman said. “We have had a lot thrown against us, and we’re here competing against the best on their home turf.”
On Saturday, Immelman recognized the importance of caring for that turf.