Anyone who has played a round of golf knows how mentally taxing the game can be. Danielle Kang, for all of her success both as an amateur and now as a pro, has a whole new appreciation for the mental fortitude it takes to perform at the highest level.
Just over a year after breaking through to win her first major championship — which also happened to be her first LPGA Tour victory — at the 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Kang found herself riddled with the yips, golf’s indiscriminate dark passenger.
“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said, according to GolfChannel.com. “Anxiety over tee balls. People might wonder what I’m doing. I actually can’t pull the trigger. Even in the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.
“It has nothing to do with the result. I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.”
Missing five cuts in the first six events of the LPGA’s fall Asian swing, Kang enlisted the help of a coach based out of Las Vegas, where she lives. Under the tutelage of Butch Harmon, Kang was able to get out of the woods to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai last week.
Trailing by one entering the final round, Kang birdied four of her final eight holes to fire a 3-under par 69 to win by two strokes over heavy-hitters such as Ariya Jutanugarn and Lydia Ko, but it wasn’t as simple as finishing strong; Kang needed to let out some anger after playing the front nine in 1-over par.
Her caddie, Oliver Brett, pulled her aside and helped her to release some of that anger in a way many golfers can relate.
“After nine holes, my caddie told me to step off to the side and he told me, ‘Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.’
“I told him, I said, ‘Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.’ He said, ‘Here’s a wedge. Just smash it.’
“Honestly, I thank him for that. He told there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things change and momentum started going my way. I started hit ting it closer and felt better over the putts and shot 4-under on the back.”
Danielle Kang has battled anxiety and all sorts of yips.
— Golfweek (@golfweek) October 21, 2018
As is often the case in golf, Kang said the key to her getting over her yips, anxiety and frustration was simply getting to a better place mentally.
“I’m just so happy to be where I’m at today,” Kang said. “I’m just happy that I won. More so than anything, I’m finally at a place where I’m peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I’m going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I’ll win more. I’ll play better.”