What you need to know about golf's unknown event

    American Christina Kim is known for her wacky outfits and wild scenes of celebration, sometimes getting herself in trouble

    Story highlights

    • The Solheim Cup takes place this weekend between Europe and United States
    • It is the 12th edition of the biennial tournament with the U.S. leading 8-3
    • England's Laura Davies is the only player to compete in every Solheim Cup
    • American Juli Inkster, 51, is the oldest Solheim Cup competitor
    This weekend some of the world's highest-paid sportswomen will battle for supremacy in Ireland, with the most prestigious team prize in their sport up for grabs.
    Golf's Solheim Cup is the female equivalent of the Ryder Cup, but it has yet to garner such a big reputation, despite a rich history and intense competition over the years.
    With this in mind, CNN gives the lowdown on a great sporting event that deserves your attention...
    From humble beginnings:
    To trace the origins of the competition, we need to go back to 1959 and a garage in Redwood City, California.
    It was in this garage that a 48-year-old Norwegian engineer and golf lover, fed up with the putters he was using to play the game, decided to use his in-depth knowledge of science to manufacturer his own putters by hand.
    From these humble beginnings, the world famous PING brand of golfing equipment was born.
    That man was Karsten Solheim and it was he, alongside his son John and the U.S. and European ladies golf tours , who developed the concept of a women's team event between the two continents.
    The inaugural tournament, bearing Solheim's name, was held in 1990 at the Lake Nona club in Florida. Two teams of eight players faced each other, with the American side running out comfortable winners 11 1/2 to 4 1/2.
    In 1996 the tournament was increased to 12 players per side, a number that stands to this day and it has become the leading team event in women's golf, with players earning their place either through their own tour money lists, or as a captain's pick -- exactly the same as in the men's Ryder Cup.
    There have been 11 tournaments in total, with the United States leading 8-3, but the European team have not won any of the six competitions played on American soil.

    The football-loving legend:
    No look at the Solheim Cup can be taken without mentioning Laura Davies. Quite astonishingly, the Englishwoman, who turns 48 next month, has appeared in all 11 previous tournaments and, once again, she is a member of the European team at Kileen Castle.

    Davies is a phenomenon in women's golf. As well as her achievements on the course -- which include winning four majors amongst her 81 victories -- she has been a flag-bearer for promoting the game, most notably when, in 2004, she became the first woman to compete on the men's European Tour.
    Davies is sports daft and is a keen racehorse owner as well as an avid follower of Liverpool Football Club. However, her love of football got her into trouble with tournament organizers in the 1996 Evian Masters, when she was fined for watching a match on a portable TV during the final round of that tournament.
    It didn't seem to hamper her game -- she won that particular tournament by four strokes!
    Swedish legend Annika Sorenstam appeared in eight Solheim Cups, winning 22 of her 37 matches, while compatriot Sophie Gustafson, another member of the current side, and European captain Alison Nicholas have also starred in eight tournaments.
    As for the Americans, you have to look hard to find a bigger legend than Juli Inkster. Despite reaching the age of 51 to become the oldest-ever competitior, the Californian is once again facing the European side this year, her ninth appearance in the event.
    Breaking the mould:
    The Solheim Cup has never really seen a player like Christina Kim before. Not only is the 27-year-old Californian a lucky charm for the United States, appearing in the winning teams of 2005 and 2009 -- claiming five out of eight points in the process -- her infectious personality, undiluted enthusiasm, larger-than-life character and wacky dress sense has been a highlight of recent competitions.
    Kim is known for her bawdy sense of humor and occasional bouts of bad language that occasionally land her in hot water with golfing authorities.
    Describing her fist-pumping celebrations in the 2009 Solheim Cup, former LPGA star Dottie Pepper wrote in a column for Sports Illustrated: "I know Christina Kim loves the galleries and is a ham, but she should be a little more respectful of the game. In the NFL, she would have been given 18 excessive celebration penalties."
    Despite becoming the youngest-ever player to reach $1 million in career earnings, Kim has not won on the LPGA Tour since 2005 and last year her autobiography, "Swinging from My Heels: Confessions of an LPGA Star", was released to critical acclaim.
    Chaos and controversy:
    Don't be deceived by the genteel nature of women's golf. The passion and will-to-win is as high as the men, but that spilled over into acrimonious scenes in 2003.
    The Barseback Golf and Country Club in Malmo, Sweden provided the setting for the eighth Solheim Cup and the first to be played away from either the United States or Great Britain.
    Scotland's Catriona Matthew secured victory for Europe on the 17th green, resulting in wild scenes of celebration.
    However, there were still quite a few singles matches still out on the course, including Norway's Suzann Pettersen against American Cristie Kerr.
    An excited Pettersen incurred Kerr's wrath by encouraging the crowd to make more noise in celebration as Kerr was about to putt on the 15th green.
    Kerr missed the putt and Pettersen won the hole. But, sensing her opponent's annoyance, Pettersen turned to Kerr on the 16th green and conceded the match, before joining the European celebrations.
    The same thing happened between the aforementioned Laura Davies and opponent Meg Mallon on the 14th hole but, as the match was all square, the pair both walked up to the tournament referee to concede at the same time, causing confusion.
    The Beth Daniel-Mhairi McKay match also came to an abrupt end with the score in the balance resulting in American captain Patty Sheehan telling reporters: "I have never seen that before. All of a sudden, everyone just quit. It wasn't quite right."
    Trophy on trophy:

    Appropriately enough, as the tournament is in Ireland this year, the Solheim Cup trophy is made of Waterford Crystal glass, which originates just down the coast from the Killeen Castle resort.
    The urn-shaped trophy is 19 inches high, weighs more than 20 pounds and sits atop a wooden base.
    It was designed in 1990 for the inaugural tournament, but what makes it unusual is an engraving of the trophy on the trophy -- a panel on one side of the crystal is engraved with the Solheim Cup logo, and the logo incorporates the trophy itself.
    Following the men:
    The competition is now a complete mirror image of the men's prestigious Ryder Cup, involving the same amount of players, format, points on offer and rivalry.
    But with the American team bidding for a fourth successive victory, the pressure is on for the Europeans to stop the rot, especially as another defeat will increase the clamor for the tournament to be changed to allow Asian players to compete.
    Asian golfers rule the roost in the women's game, with six of the world's top 10 players coming from the continent.
    In 1979, worried by the one-sided nature of the competition, Ryder Cup organizers decided that their biennial competition between the United States and Great Britain should be altered to make it Europe instead of Britain.
    The change completely altered the nature of the event, making it closer and more exciting. Another American victory, taking their overall lead to 9-3, will certainly intensify that particular debate.