Interview With 2011 U.S. Women's Amateur Champion Danielle Kang


By USGA
August 14, 2011

THE MODERATOR:  Ladies and gentlemen, our 2011 champion for the second year in a row, Danielle Kang.  What a round of golf that was.  How do you feel about it overall?

DANIELLE KANG:  I feel great.  I played the best round I played all week.  I brought up some good games.

THE MODERATOR:  The best round you played all week.  How about compared to other rounds in your career?  Can you think of a time when you played better?

DANIELLE KANG:  Hmm, well, at a tournament, at a major championship?  This is the best round I've played at a major championship.  I brought it on.  I played really well last year, but I think I was a better player this year than last year.

Q.  I don't think you made 11 birdies last year in the final.  

DANIELLE KANG:  No, I don't think so.

Q.  Did you feel something at the first tee?  When you came out today, the first hole was 12 feet, the second hole was in there tight.  The third hole was tight.  If you had made a few more putts, you may be shooting a 61 out there.  

DANIELLE KANG:  You know, after my dad told me I was 7 under at one point, and all I wanted to do was get to 10 under.  I didn't even know what the match was.  I wasn't really paying attention.  I just to keep making birdies, because I know birdies are going to win the hole.

I wasn't underestimating Moriya.  I know she's a great player, so I knew par wasn't going to win the holes today.

Q.  So what is the degree of difficulty for you from last year's win to this year's win?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Every match is difficult in different ways.  They're two different players.

Q.  But you said you were a better player this year?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yes, I've improved a lot and I’ve matured over the year.

Q.  How is your game different now compared to a year ago?  

DANIELLE KANG:  It's like it's well‑constructed?  I don't know how to explain it.  But everything is pretty much solid.  There is no weak point.  I do still make mistakes, but it's not as often.  I don't make them often or I'm not a really bad bunker shot player.  No, there's nothing like that.  I'm really solid overall.

Q.  When you were 6 up, what did you feel about your game when you were making progress, did you think I’m in, no problem?  

DANIELLE KANG:  I never think a match is over until it is actually over.  So, when was I 6 up? (told on 13 in the morning). I just wish it was an 18-hole tournament. It was like oh, God.  Come on, we're done.  But, you know what I mean, we have 18 holes to go, and I know what Moriya's capable of.  I've seen her scores.  If she comes back with eight birdies on me, I don't know what to do.

So I was eating and I was like you know what, what happens, happens.  I was 4 up, and I'm going to restart the game all squared and try to beat her this match too.

Q.  In terms of being well‑constructed in your game, is there something in particular over the last year that you feel has been shored up to make that game not have anymore holes?  

DANIELLE KANG:  You know, I try to get better at my short game.  My coach has been focusing on my short game because I've been a good ball striker ever since I can remember.  Ball striking, for me it just comes.  If I hit it bad, I could fix it really quickly.  But putting was my biggest difficulty, and I had 17 three‑putts and a four‑putt at the U.S. Open and made the cut doing that.  I don't even know how.  But I think that opened my eyes big.

I was using a Daytona putter, and my coach took that away from me and put me back on the Mallet.  He just told me to trust it and keeps putting it in my mind ‑‑ Brady Riggs, by the way ‑‑ keeps putting it in my mind that I'm a good putter, and that's all I hear all from now on.  I tell myself, you're the best putter, just make the putt.  It's not that hard.

Q.  You must have been really pleased with your putting today.  

DANIELLE KANG:  I've been pleased with my putting since right after the U.S. Open.  I changed the putter the day after the U.S. Open, and I won the North and South.  I got low amateur at the British and won the Women's Amateur?

Q.  What putter did you have?  

DANIELLE KANG:  The Daytona.

Q.  How long had you been using it?  

DANIELLE KANG:  For a month.

Q.  A month?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yes, and that was during the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Open, and in both tournaments I putted absolutely terrible.

Q.  What made you switch it back?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Oh, switch to the other one?  I don't know why I decided to switch.  And everyone said it was a bad decision, and I was like well, Tiger putts with a regular putter and he's an awesome player.  But everyone's not the same.  I'm a mallet person.

Q.  Right now you're playing better than Tiger (laughing).  

DANIELLE KANG:  No, he's my hero.

Q.  You're still playing better than him.  

DANIELLE KANG:  No, I don't believe that.

Q.  Does this course play to your strengths?  

DANIELLE KANG:  It's a ball striker's golf course and you still have to make putts.  If you have a solid game, you're going to play well here, basically.  And Moriya's a really solid player.  I'd never seen her play until today.

Q.  Physically how do you feel today?  After going into yesterday it was a little iffy, but it didn't look that way out there? 

DANIELLE KANG:  No, you know, I feel good.  I actually had two shots where it was kind of iffy.  I kind of felt the tension, but it went away as soon as I just walked towards my ball.  And I wasn't scared to go for the ball because, I mean, it's my last day.  Just go for it.  And I got well‑rested, I got fixed, so good to go.

Q.  I talked to the chiropractor.  She said you didn't call her last night.  I guess the adjustment on Friday night or whatever she did was good enough to carry a couple days?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yeah, last night, stuff happened and I couldn't really call her.  I was trying to talk to my mom.  We were talking and we were trying to get her a flight.  Plus, it wasn't hurting terribly, and I didn't want to get adjusted if it wasn't hurting as bad as it was.  And she told me if it feels like it's aggravating, then call me and it wasn't, so...

Q.  You put the tape back on today, right?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yeah, she left it on perfectly, and it's all wrapped around my shoulder.  I was just rested really well.  Like I was resting with a heat pack.

Q.  Was your mother here?  

DANIELLE KANG:  No, she couldn't come.  She has to work.

Q.  And you couldn't get a flight for her to come in for this?  

DANIELLE KANG:  She thought she's bad luck, so basically if she came and let's say I lost, she would have blamed that all on herself.

Q.  There is no way to win in that situation.  

DANIELLE KANG:  Exactly.  So I kept getting mad at her, and then she got mad because I was getting mad.  It was like all drama.

Q.  Did you talk to her after you won though?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yeah, she was crying.  You know what, I think it worked out the best because, I don't know, just in case if anything happens, she would have blamed herself, and I don't want her to do that.  I told her if she comes, I'll win double the amount, but she has to work on Monday morning and she can't get back in time.  She's not going to miss another tournament after this.

Q.  What does she do for work?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Acupuncturist.  She's a doctor, yeah.

Q.  You could have used her.  

DANIELLE KANG:  I know.  She was actually going to fly out on Friday.  She was getting a red eye on Friday until I found Dr. McNally.

Q.  Was there a point where you thought ‘I'm not going to be able to complete this physically?’  

DANIELLE KANG:  No.

Q.  You always felt you could continue even though you were going through some pain is this? 

DANIELLE KANG:  Yes, unless I'm basically dying I would not withdraw from a tournament.  I just won't.  I can't.  If I started something, I have to finish it, however bad I played.

Q.  You're leaving the amateur game after this week.  You get a chance to go out on top and win two of these things and winning the North and South and the kind of year you’ve had. Very few athletes get to do that – to finish off their career whether it’s a professional or amateur to go out at the mount.  Talk about that?  

DANIELLE KANG:  You know, it's convinced me now that you're ready to go.  Because every time an amateur decides to turn pro, they always think, am I ready?  That's what they ask themselves.  Now I know that I am and I have to go to the next level.  Whether I'm top player there or not, it's somewhere to start after this position.  So hopefully I improve more and I'll be at the top level of the LPGA.

Q.  Is it cool to finish off your career with another title?  

DANIELLE KANG:  It's pretty awesome, actually.

Q.  You're in a select company of people who have defended.  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yeah, I was actually thinking about Juli Inkster.

Q.  I've got a list, Genevieve Hecker, Dorothy Campbell, Margaret Curtis, Alexa Stirling, Glenna Collett, Virginia Van Wie, Betty Jameson, Juli Inkster, Kay Cockerill, and Kelli Kuehne.  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yeah, it's a lot.  Am I the youngest?

Q.  The first two were ‑‑ one was 18 when she won her second, and one was 17 when she won her second.  

DANIELLE KANG:  So 17, 18.

Q.  Yeah, in the 1800s.  1901.  

DANIELLE KANG:  1901, oh, my goodness.

Q.  Let me ask you something.  Was there ever any thought that so few have won two in a row, and I think it's only like five who ever won three in a row.  Was there ever any thought that maybe I'd like to stay and try to make my place in history and win three in a row?  

DANIELLE KANG:  No.  My friend Amy Anderson tried to convince me to stay amateur, and then go live in North Dakota with her (laughing).  She's like you can come to my school.  We can build snowmen.  But that could go on forever.  How about if I do win three in a row, how about four in a row?

I'm going to miss being an amateur and all the amateurs that I know, but I know they’re the next generation that's going to come up, so I'll just wait, basically.

Q.  Do you regret that you won’t get to play on a Curtis Cup Team?  

DANIELLE KANG:  I got to play World Amateur Team. You can’t get everything in life, right?

Q.  What did your dad say to you?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Nice.  Good job.

Q.  What does your dad do for your game when he's on your bag?  

DANIELLE KANG:  He makes me comfortable.  He makes me feel like ‑‑ I don't get tensed up ever when he's caddying.  If I have a bad shot, I blame him and it's not even his fault.  He doesn't even choose the club; I choose it.  And I go it's your fault, but he just goes whatever and ignore, walk away.

He just makes me feel really comfortable on the golf course, and no other caddie could do that.

Q.  Does he play the game too?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yes, he does.

Q.  Is he good?  

DANIELLE KANG:  He used to be.

Q.  So does he offers advice at certain times during matches?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Last year he did a lot.  And then this year I ask once in a while.  Like when I'm really undecided.  I call him, Dad, left or right?  And he goes, I think it's left to right, and we agree on it.  It's just the confirmation that I get from him.  He never tells me this and this and this.  I just go 143?  Yep.  8?  Yeah.

Q.  Those are brief conversations.  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yeah, as he goes no, and I'm like, why not?  And he's like the wind.  And I say the wind doesn't count.  Then he says, okay, whatever you feel like.

Q.  Was he on the bag for you last year in the championship? 

DANIELLE KANG:  Yes.

Q.  When do you think you'll turn pro? 

DANIELLE KANG:  I don't know.  I'm not sure yet.  I don't know what I'm going to do.

Q.  Did he caddie the North and South?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yes, he did.

Q.  Whoa, he may be in trouble.  

DANIELLE KANG:  I know, oh, gosh.

Q.  What events do you have lined up for the fall as far as professional stuff?  

DANIELLE KANG:  I haven't really looked into it, actually.  I was going to go to Safeway if I didn't make finals, but I did, so I'm not going.  I'm thinking about the Canadian Open, and probably the Wal‑Mart Classic.

Q.  Will go you do Monday qualifying?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Probably, unless they'll make an exemption open and maybe I can call.  The Navistar is like in a month, and maybe I can call them and see.  And I'm thinking like Hana Bank.  We'll see.

Q.  How do you think you'll feel when you step up to the first tee on the pro ranks?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Same as always.  It's a tournament.  Every tournament is a tournament, so I won't feel that different.  It's a stroke play versus match play.

Q.  Is it different than when you're playing for real money.  

DANIELLE KANG:  You know, all I try to do is have fun, and when you have fun, you play well.  When you play well, you get big bucks.

Q.  Do you have friends on the LPGA Tour?  

DANIELLE KANG:  No, not many.

Q.  You will.  

DANIELLE KANG:  Not really.  No, like I don't really have friends on the LPGA, I'm a rookie, I'm a newbie.  We'll see.  I'm just going to wait for my friends to come up.  They'll be there soon.

Q.  Speaking of friends, you mentioned you're friends with Marcus Allen and Wayne Gretzky.  Do they play golf with you?  

DANIELLE KANG:  I play golf with Marcus and Eric a lot, and they yell at me ‑‑ like they keep me in place.  But they always tell me what's right and wrong, you know.  They've been through a lot, too.

And Wayne and Janet are the nicest people in the world.  They take care of me every day, and they got me into the golf course at Sherwood Country Club, and that's a really nice golf course.  They hold a Tiger tournament, and you can't play there not without a membership.  It's just amazing.

And Janet called me right after I was done.  She was like, oh, my God.  I think she was crying.

Q.  How long have you known them for?  

DANIELLE KANG:  A couple of years.  And their son is like my older brother, too.  Ty's like my older brother.  I say Ty's my brother, so...

Q.  Do you go skating with them?  

DANIELLE KANG:  I went skating once with Ty.  Yeah, it was embarrassing.

Q.  Ty is how old?  

DANIELLE KANG:  21.

Q.  Your phone is blowing up.  How many phone calls and text messages have you gotten?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Let me check.  I have over 75 text messages, and 40 phone calls, and a lot of Twitter updates and Facebook notifications for now.  78 friend requests (laughing).  This is ridiculous.  And 16 notes.

Q.  40 phone calls?  How many friends do you have on Facebook?  

DANIELLE KANG:  I don't know.  Can you check on that?  Oh, wait, 76 text messages just came.  I don't know.  I don't accept the person if I don't have a mutual friend, really.

Q.  If you don't know them.  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yeah, because every time I do accept them they like ‑‑ it's weird.

Q.  They can be.  

DANIELLE KANG:  I don't know them, so I never accept it, and my brother always yells at me if I accept somebody.  I learned.  I just look at their mutual friends and accept.

Q.  Does it feel weird that this is your last amateur event?  You've known that this is going to be that for some time now, but now that you've gone through it and you've won again, what's it feel like?  

DANIELLE KANG:  You know, the only amateur event I look forward to every year is the U.S. Am, and the other amateur tournament I played was the North and South.  So it's kind of sad that I won't be able to play USGA events anymore.

Q.  U.S. Open.  

DANIELLE KANG:  Well, I can never play Publix actually.  The other side is the U.S. Girls, (Indiscernible) and I won't play U.S. Am.  I'm going to miss everybody.  They're so nice, all the USGA people.

Q.  Well, you'll see them at the U.S. Women's Open.  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yeah.

Q.  What do you think the biggest life lesson was that you learned throughout the year, college?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Biggest life lesson?  Throughout what?

Q.  Well, your college career came to an abrupt, unfortunate end, did you learn anything from that?  

DANIELLE KANG:  I don't really have any comment to that.  But I learn from the tournaments I play in, and whatever happens, you know, every day you learn something.  Basically whatever happens, happens.  You fight with somebody, you learn something.

Q.  When did you get the Sherwood thing?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Last year after I won the Amateur.  They're the ones that allowed me to practice.  They let me practice there before I came to the Amateur, because I didn't have anywhere to practice.  Then I won.  Then I thanked them and then Janet ‑‑ I used to go out there with Janet and Wayne all the time.  Now that I'm a member, I can go out there every day.

Q.  Do you wear something from them when you go on Tour?  Are you going to look for them for a sponsorship?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Sherwood?  I think everybody knows I'm at Sherwood.

Q.  I mean, the club name on the bag.  Do you have any sponsors? 

DANIELLE KANG:  Well, I'm an amateur, I'm not supposed to talk to anybody.  Oh, 77.  Oh, I already talked to Janet the minute I was done.  I was on the cart on the way here.  She was crying.  She said great job.

Q.  She was crying, too?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yeah, she's like my second mom.

Q.  What's your dad's name?  

DANIELLE KANG:  K.S., his initials.  Oh, 78 text messages.

Q.  It's going to be 100 by the time you get out of here.  

DANIELLE KANG:  I know.

Q.  What does he do back home?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Telecommunication business.

Q.  Does he own that company?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yeah.

Q.  And that's where?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Busan.

Q.  Have you heard from your brother?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Oh, that was my next call.  I was actually ignoring his call during Janet's call, but he just said, oh, that's sick.  That's what he said.

Q.  Is he home? 

DANIELLE KANG:  Yeah, he really wanted to come.  He was at the Western Amateur.  He got knocked out on the first round.  Oh, God.  And then he was going to fly out here, but he's bad luck, so he went home.  What's with the bad luck?  People, it's all in their mind.  I don't know.

He's been telling people I'm taking people to Disneyland if I win and I'm paying.  I'm like I don't understand this.  Now everyone's texting me Disneyland.  All of a sudden last night people changed to Cabo.  I'm like you guys pay for yourselves.  What are you talking about?  We're probably going to go to the Disneyland.  I really want to go.

Q.  Did he qualify for the Amateur?  

DANIELLE KANG:  He's the first alternate.  He lost in the playoff.  I really want him to get in.  I don't want to wish bad things on somebody for him to get in, but I really want him to play.  If he has a chance, he'll play.

Q.  Will you take the trophy to Sherwood?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Yeah, they had it during the Tiger tournament.  First I have to show it to my mom because she didn't get to say bye and everything.  It's good.

Q.  Where do you go from here?  

DANIELLE KANG:  Disneyland.

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