Danielle Kang survived. Now, she’s ready to thrive.
2016 was a struggle for the two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion. In May, Kang was forced to withdraw from the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic with a wrist injury brought on by golf. Then, weakness in her back and poor posture resulted in three bulging disks in her neck. She missed six weeks on Tour, which Kang hailed as a small accomplishment given the severity of her injuries. She ended the disappointing year by undergoing eye surgery for pterygium, a growth on her eyeball that was caused by exposure to UV light. It’s a condition she was coping with for three years and affected her vision depending on the light and wind.
Kang was more than ready to put 2016 behind her.
“This past season was mostly survival mode more than anything,” Kang told LPGA.com via email. “My goal was to get back out on the golf course as soon as possible. These injuries should’ve had me sit out the rest of the season, however, my awesome team helped me get back on the course in just six weeks.”
Kang underwent aggressive treatment with her physiotherapist Eric Blum, who used electromagnetic pulse therapy, lasers, stem, recovery system and manipulation to help Kang return to golf. Her mother, Dr. Grace Lee, also performed acupuncture on her daughter to help speed-up her recovery time. Osteopath Shane Campbell, who travels with Kang, helped her “maintain the injuries while being able to play and practice at tournaments.”
But Kang’s quick return to the Tour forced her to compensate for her injuries. She made adjustments to her swing and changed her course management. Kang relied on her caddie, Cole Pensanti, to help her find alternative ways of approaching certain holes to avoid further injuring herself. For a period, Kang says she wasn’t able to hit any pitch shots. So, she hit four and eight irons off the tee. She preferred to sacrifice some distance for the sake of accuracy, not wanting to risk hitting a wayward drive into the rough from which she would be unable to recover.
“I played and swung a little different since I wasn’t able to hit down on the ball,” Kang said. “But I learned so much this year and grew apart from the results.”
Now, Kang is starting the New Year with a clean bill of health. She took to social media the first week of January to share her good news, in which she revealed the eye surgery she had undergone as well as her positive prognosis.
“I’m feeling very positive and excited about my game heading into 2017,” Kang said. “Having been cleared of injuries I feel as if 100 pounds of weight lifted off my shoulders.”
But Danielle isn’t the only one in the family celebrating. Her brother, Alex, earned his Web.com Tour card for 2017 after finishing in the top-5 on PGA Tour China’s Order of Merit.
“I’ve always loved watching my brother play golf. Now that he’s playing on the Web.com and is in the States, I would love to be able to go see him!”
In the meantime, Kang is preparing for the start of her season, which she will begin in February at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and is looking forward to feeling more like herself.
Her goal for 2017? Kang said it simply.