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Danielle Kang is a tremendously talented player with a vivacious personality and an unwavering focus to win. Kang’s altruistic nature is evident by her humble philanthropic pursuits with UNICEF and a confident yet contained ego.
She is an elite athlete with a slew of professional results that speak for themselves. Even though her small stature and genuine smile are totally enchanting, in competition mode Kang presents as always on guard.
There’s no doubt her simply stepping onto the green would be seen as threatening to any top-tier golfer on tour. Kang wields her bag of Titleist weapons with precision and dedication to the game and is seen as both a formidable opponent and an integral member of Team USA. Yep, fans go wild for Kang whenever it’s her tee time.
When I interviewed an uber-relaxed Kang, I was immediately impressed not just with her on-course golfing prowess but by way of her excitable
yet grounded banter. Oh, and that enter the dragon headline reference, it should make sense as you read on.
Have you spent much time exploring Australia?
DK: Yes, ma'am. I used to play the ISPS tournaments, and I've competed at the Australian Open a couple of times. I've visited the Gold Coast, which was fun, and I did the whole Sydney Harbour Bridge walk and a lot of tourist stuff. It’s a beautiful country.
Oh, excellent. What was your favorite course that you played here?
I can't say it's my favourite, but I really respect Royal Melbourne because it really is a great golf course.
Agreed. Who encouraged you to first play golf?
Actually, I wasn't encouraged. Essentially, my brother picked up golf and everybody talked about how good my brother was, and I got kind of jealous, and then I just started playing at around 13 years of age because I wanted to hang out with my brother.
I love the family connection there. I hear you're a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. What other sports are you in to?
Growing up, I did a lot of random sports, because I was kind of an extreme kid. I really enjoyed snowboarding and so my parents would take me to the snow every winter. I used to skateboard and roller blade and things like that, but I haven't done that in years.
You lived in Malibu for a while. Do you surf?
I actually lived across from Malibu in Westlake Village, that’s right under the canyon. I did go to school in Malibu and the beach was with in a 20-minute drive. I surfed a bit back then but stopped because it gave me a vertigo like feeling while riding waves which is a bit strange, I don’t know why that started happening. Now I paddleboard a lot. I used to jet ski too. Those are the kinds of watersports that I really enjoy doing. Oddly enough, when I was a kid, I loved roller coasters. I used to cry at amusement parks because I wasn't tall enough to ride the roller coasters that were too dangerous.
What was the Tokyo Olympic experience like for you?
The Olympics were...really…just wow. I've had so many experiences in the last few months with the Olympics and then the Solheim Cup that I can't describe, to start explaining to you clearly, because I can't recreate that feeling. I have so much honour and respect for my time in Tokyo. I learned so much by watching other athletes and walking around the Olympic Village, meeting the people from all around the world, being near the best athletes in the world. They are the strongest, the fastest. To become one of them was an honour in itself.
Amazing indeed. Danielle, do you have any pregame rituals?
Not necessarily. I always warm up with a routine. Lately I've learned to relax and go with the flow. I always try to eat well in the morning before I go to the golf course.
In the afternoon, I try to eat lighter because I don't want to be heavy and keep my energy up to take on all-day things.
Our teaching pro has an article about putting in this issue, so we were just wondering what putter is in your bag at the moment.
Oh, I've used the Scotty Camerons for a long, long time. Mr. Cameron has built all the putters that I've liked. He is very open to designing both putters and putt covers. They've always felt right in my hands, the feel and the sound. There's nothing like it, to be honest. And no, it's not an ad. It's not an ad because that's actually how I feel about them.
Your sponsor Adidas produces a range of eco-conscious clothing and footwear with recycled materials such as ocean plastic waste. How important are environmentally sustainable practices to you?
I've always really honoured how Adidas has approached what they're passionate about. And I've worked with a company called 4 Ocean, so I certainly believe that the environment is a big deal. This is where we live. This is our home. There's a lot of debates about whether it's global warming or not, but I don't really like to go into debates. It's more so, like we just need to work hard, whether it's to recycle, whether it's to just conserve water, energy, or plastic. We can't start making this change or a shift if we don't start with ourselves.
Yes, everyone should make the effort to do their bit.
For sure, even basic things like not throwing trash on the floor, and not throwing it away in the ocean and on the beaches and things like that. Those are the things that I think that we can do better at - frankly be better at. With a company like Adidas, for them to take a huge action forward and aim to make all clothing with eco materials by 2023 I believe, is just amazing.
It warms my heart to be a part of a company that would take that big of an action, because it isn't an easy process to go through the production line. There's so much to it behind the scenes. I'm sure it can’t be an easy thing, they would have to go through many design and production changes, which takes take time and effort, so I really appreciate what they are doing with that.
What motivates you?
What motivates me is just the process of being better. The opportunity that the game of golf gives me, the platform that it gives me to make a change in this world. Golf is just a part of who I am, and golf has opened up so many doors for me. It (golf) motivates me to be a better player and a better person. I absolutely love playing it.
Dream golf vacation destination?
I would like to say Alaska. I want to say Alaska because it turns out there's a 24-hour full-light day, so it would be really fun to play golf in the middle of that. I like Hawaii and New Zealand a lot too.
Finish this sentence. Women's golf is...
Inspiring. Wow, that was really corny ha.
True or false? Danielle Kang likes dragons.
True, I just love them. They’re kind of an interesting mythical creature, right? I love animals in general and I've been really into mythology since I was a kid, and the fact of the history of the dragons, I've always found interesting, and I used to go out watching dragons all day with my dad.
Is mindset or technique more important in competition?
Mindset. I believe that technique can always be worked on, but golf is a game of misses, and golf is a game of attitude, so I do believe in the whole thing of mind over matter. I believe you just need to have a positive mindset, both in terms of our mental health, internal health, and physical health. It's all mindset.
Who are your favourite (current or past) pro golfers to watch?
I mean, you can't deny watching Tiger Woods, right? With that being said there are plenty of players I really do love to watch hit golf balls. I love Phil Mickelson’s chip and nowadays, I do really enjoy watching Bryson play golf, because he plays a different game of golf and I respect that a lot. I enjoy watching Collin Morikawa, the consistency of his ball striking is unbelievable. And Nelly Korda, her game is on another level at the moment, and it really inspires me and motivates me to be better. I mean, Inbee Park, the way she carries herself, the way she putts, the way she goes around the golf course, even if she's not a long hitter. Every single player has a way of inspiring me and motivating me - I could never pick one person when there’s so many talented players!
Career Highlights: LPGA Victories (5 wins, 1 Major), Solheim Cup Team Competitor (2017, 2019, 2021), LPGA Award Winner of the 2020 Vare Trophy with 70.08 scoring average. Two-time and back-to-back champion in 2020 at the LPGA Drive On Championship, Tokyo Olympics (T20), 2010 and 2011 US Women’s Amateur Championship.
Major Sponsors: Titleist, Omega, Adidas, Citi, BMW Golf Sport, MGM Resorts.
Main photo credit: Vaughan Ridley Getty Images