Pro Golfer Danielle Kang on Putting Winning in Perspective
By Colette A. Harris
Danielle Kang wants to win and relishes being in contention at major golf tournaments. Playing since the age of 12, Kang has already boasted a successful amateur career, winning both the 2010 and 2011 US Women’s Amateur Championship. She turned professional in 2011, qualifying for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour on her first attempt. She won her first major, the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, last year and is looking to add more titles to her name. GOLD sat down with Kang prior to the start of the 2018 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship to hear more about her training regimen, advice to other athletes, and how her first big win changed her outlook on competing.
GOLD: In addition to several hours of hitting golf balls and playing roughly nine holes on a typical training day, what are some of your other key training elements?
DK: Lately, I’ve been getting more gym oriented. I like to put on muscle. I put on 15 pounds during the off season. I call it the bulking season. I eat a lot. I work out a lot. Weight training isn’t really my favorite, so I do a lot of band work and a lot of body work. I try different things. I’ve tried aerial workouts - it’s really fun. I’ve tried Pilates, yoga, and dance classes. At home, that’s when it’s important to sleep as much as I can. I never, ever set an alarm at home. Ever.
GOLD: Last year you won your first major, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Olympia Fields. You’ve talked about how that victory helped you switch your mindset from needing to win to wanting to win. How has that shift in thinking helped your golf game?
DK: Needing to win is not a feeling that you ever want because that means you’re being chased by something and you’re desperate. And I was desperate to win. I was coming off of a great amateur career. I was the world number one amateur coming in [to the professional ranks] and everyone had such high expectations. At that point, I never stopped to think that I’d only played golf for five or six years before I turned professional. I practiced. I did everything I could and, at one point when you give it that much and you don’t get the results you want, you kind of deflate. I did get lazy for a little bit. I didn’t practice as hard because I go, What’s the point? I was just so frustrated and when this win did finally happen for me, it was so grand the way I won it. The venue, the event, the people, the Commissioner calling it the breakthrough of the year, and all of that just made me feel so amazing because of the support that I’ve had all these years. Finally winning just made me kind of like, now it’s over with. You know? Like I’m okay. It's done. That first win that had just been suppressing to me, finally that flurry just lifted, and now I just want to win. I want to win and love being in contention. I love being in that position and I want to be there. Now, I don’t need to be there, but I want to be.
GOLD: It sounds like you had a lot of pressure on you to succeed as soon as you turned professional. How did you stay mentally strong through that challenging time?
DK: Everything’s always gonna be okay. That’s the motto that I live for. I say, "It is what it is," a lot, but that sounds a little negative, you know? Like there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s what it feels like. So I don't like that, but I always say, “Everything's gonna be okay.” I am very blessed to have the life that I have, but in my life I’ve gone through things that I never want to see, I never want to go through, and emotionally I’ve been just traumatized. It just makes you who you are now and you’ve got to understand everything is going be fine. At the end of the day you freak out about it and only time is going to let you know that it’s going be fine. Time doesn't heal, but it does help you be okay.
GOLD: What advice do you have to younger players about staying mentally strong through tough times?
DK: I tell all the kids, It's okay. You three-putt, it’s going to be fine. When I three-putted on the 10th hole at Olympia Fields [last year] I was angry. I was so upset but I go, It’s fine. One, I have eight more holes to play. Second of all, it’s not over yet; it’s going to be fine. I just have to give it all I got.
GOLD: What’s one thing you know now about competing that you wished you knew when you were younger?
DK: I would like to tell myself everything is going work out. If I could tell myself back then, Hey it’s going to be fine; everything is going work out the way you want it to. Just keep working hard, I would be less anxious and less frustrated. People get frustrated because they want results and they’re not getting what they want whether it’s in golf or life. Why worry about something you don’t have control over? That’s something that I’m still learning to do. I just want to worry about things I can control now and what I can do better today.
TV show: Friends
Book: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Way to relax: FaceTiming with friends
Travel Spot: Singapore and Thailand
Quote: “You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. The power is sitting back and observing everything with logic. Have restraint. If words can control you, that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass.”
Photo at Top: Courtesy of the PGA of America
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.