LPGA Tour player Danielle Kang qualified for the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open when she was 14, won consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateurs in 2010 and 2011 and turned pro when she was 18. Six years later, she won for the first time as a pro at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the major championship that comes to Hazeltine National Golf Club this week.
She has won two tournaments and more than $4 million in her career, starred for the U.S. team in its 2017 Solheim Cup victory and has five top-10 finishes this season. A woman of many interests, she also earned a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo when she was 7 years old, paints and draws, loves music, isn’t allowed near a spatula and wants badly to own a hairy spider.
The 26-year-old Southern Californian who now lives in Las Vegas talked about all those things and more in a Q&A with Star Tribune golf writer Jerry Zgoda:
Q You’ve never been to Hazeltine. How much do you know about its history of U.S. Opens, women’s and men’s, PGAs and the Ryder Cup?
A I wasn’t raised with golf. Golf just kind of happened in my life. I didn’t grow up looking at the histories of golf. I’m very, very ignorant. I haven’t watched “Caddyshack.” I haven’t watched “Tin Cup.” I’m not a very golf person. I love the game, but I don’t know the history. I learn it when I get there. I love walking around the clubhouse. I love museums, so basically I treat the clubhouse as a museum and I walk in and I learn.
Q This KPMG Women’s PGA is the event you won as a pro for the first time in 2017. What did it mean to break through and win?
A It will hold a special place in my heart forever. When people ask that, I can’t explain what it meant to me. I can only explain that it’s unexplainable the high I felt, the accomplishment I felt. Winning a major as my first championship, the way I won it with birdie on the last hole, all of it. I couldn’t have written a better script.
Q It’s a major so it’s a different venue every year. What’s the same about coming back to one you’ve won before?
A It definitely feels different than other tournaments. You want to play so well. You walk through the clubhouse and usually they have the past champions pictures up. Seeing your face gives you extra confidence, that extra edge. I love a tournament I’ve won before. I love it when the golf courses play tough.
Q Is it true you learned golf in a year and a half?
A I made the U.S. Open in a year. Maybe I just have natural talent. Golf was easy to me back then. I was young, and you’re fearless and you just go up and hit it. Doing martial arts for over a decade and being in fight mode when you’re younger, I had that confidence I could do anything. I didn’t think it was a big deal. I didn’t know what the U.S. Open was when I made it. I didn’t even sign up for it. My brother signed me up for it.
Q Is golf still easy?
A No, golf is hard. It’s the most difficult game on the planet, man. It is not easy.
Q You play piano, saxophone. You draw, you paint and are a martial-arts expert. Is there anything you can’t do?
A I cannot cook. I don’t touch any appliances in the kitchen. I’m not allowed by anybody, by any means. I’m not allowed to touch even the toaster.
Q It sounds like you’ve had a bad experience?
A Cooking is just not my thing. I can’t do it. I don’t know when the meat’s done. I try to make eggs, and they burn. Somebody asked me for some sugar and I handed them salt, I guess. They’re both white. It ruined the whole meal, so I just don’t touch anything. I eat out.
Q How do you explain your aptitude in so many things?
A If I care, I’ll figure it out. If I do not care, I’ll be really bad at it. One of my main goals in life is to be successful and have a personal chef. Some people want a big boat or a big house. I really want a personal chef.
Q How old were you when you realized you like the big stage, like to compete?
A Ever since I was young, I’ve loved stages. I loved Taekwondo, being in an arena and having everyone’s eyes on me. My close friends will tell you I’m an introverted extrovert, but when the stage is set, I’m ready to roll.
Q Is that why you want to act?
A I wanted to be an actress when I was younger. I love cinematography, I love film. I love creating something to get my message across. It’s very hard to get people to listen and hear you. Do you know that? I like art. I use golf as a form of art. You have to create shots and be creative.
Q What do you like about getting kicked in the face?
A I don’t like it. Nobody likes it. But I do like the combat. I like that adrenaline rush. It’s just 1-on-1. That’s why I love match play maybe. It’s just you, your opponent, and you’ve got to take them down. There’s always been this fighter in me that I liked. I don’t think, I just do.
Q Why did you want a tarantula?
A How did you know I wanted a tarantula? Where did I ever say I wanted a tarantula. How did that get out?
A Oh, I’m way too honest with you guys. I called a couple friends because I needed somebody to take care of the tarantula if I buy it, but nobody will. I really like spiders. They’re very interesting creatures. I absolutely love animals. I would work with animals if I could. Maybe one day I will.
I have a dog and a fish, but I travel so much, I can’t really get pets. Who’s going to take care of them? Everyone knows don’t send Danielle to a pet store because I will bring something back. Once I tried to purchase a tiger. It was a mess. I purchased a turtle and had it delivered to my house. My poor mom, she won’t take care of a spider because she doesn’t want my dog to accidentally eat a tarantula.
Nobody will let me, so I can’t get it.