Gulbis, Kim fire up fans, then put heat on Europe with a big match victory

Matt Beach's smile stretched the width of a Rich Harvest Farms putting green.

As Natalie Gulbis walked off the 11th green during Friday afternoon's alternate-shot format on Day 1 of the Solheim Cup in Sugar Grove, the Geneva teenager stood by the ropes and raised an open hand. The blond, short-skirt-wearing, 26-year-old Gulbis acknowledged his high-five with an equally wide smile and slap of hands.

"Who were you going for?" a woman asked Beach.

"Who do you think?" a family friend of Beach's interjected with a laugh. "He's 17 years old!"

Gulbis and her U.S. Team partner, Christina Kim, were flashing smiles and interacting with fans throughout their 4&2 win over Europeans Suzann Pettersen and Sophie Gustafson at Rich Harvest Farms.

The ramped-up energy started on the first tee box.

After Junior Solheim Cup captain Nancy Lopez helped her American girls by leading chants of "U-S-A," Gulbis jogged onto the tee box and blew a kiss to the fans sitting in the elevated bleachers. Kim, wearing a backward beret and dark sunglasses, followed with raised arms and a backward strut.

After two holes Friday afternoon, the two American players, neither of whom played in the morning four ball, were 2-up. Kim was slapping hands with fans and thanking them for coming to the tournament as she strode proudly to the third tee box.

Her enthusiasm never relented. And there was no chance of that happening for the 25-year-old.

"Every moment of this entire week has been four years in the making," said Kim, whose deft chip on the par-3 16th all but sealed the match. "I had suffered the tragedy in 2007 of not making my way onto the team and deservedly not being picked. I was chomping at the bit since 8:05 (Friday) morning sending off the group."

As she sat in the media room afterward with teammates Gulbis, Paula Creamer and Juli Inkster, she propped up a small American flag, her face still beaming.

"I've still got a little bit of voice left in me for (Saturday)," Kim said. "I'm going to save up."

She's appreciating every moment, every fan.

"They have so much faith in us and they're supporting us so much," Kim said. "They're putting in time, effort, money, all that stuff just to come watch us play golf and defend our country, defend the Cup. The least we can do is get into it with them."

While Gulbis and Kim mingled with the fans, they also enjoyed each other.

"We were really looking forward to playing together," Gulbis said. " We had talked about it on the first tee that it's been four years since we first played together. We had such a great time the last time we played together in the States.

"We had a great time out there and got off to a really good start and just kept going."

<div class="infoBox"> <h1>More Coverage</h1> <div class="infoBoxContent"> <div class="infoArea"> <h2>Photo Galleries</h2> <ul class="gallery"> <li><a href="/story/?id=315268">Thursday images from the Solheim Cup </a></li> <li><a href="/story/?id=314990">Wednesday images from the Solheim Cup </a></li> <li><a href="/story/?id=314617">Tuesday images from the Solheim Cup </a></li> <li><a href="/story/?id=314310">Monday images from the Solheim Cup </a></li> </ul> <h2>Video</h2> <ul class="video"> <li><a href="">Solheim Cup Opening </a></li> <li><a href="">Solheim Cup After Sundown party </a></li> </ul> <h2>Related links</h2> <ul class="moreWeb"> <li><a href="/packages/2009/solheimcup/">Complete Daily Herald coverage of the Solheim Cup</a></li> </ul> </div> </div> </div>

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