BIRMINGHAM, Ala – Danielle Kang arrived like a rockstar to her press conference at the U.S. Women’s Open on Wednesday. With her cell phone in hand, in the midst of a call, she took her seat on stage in the media center.
“Give me a sec,” she said politely to the media, as she proceeded to wrap-up her call.
The usual introductions began. Danielle Kang, two-time USGA champion, now in the media center. She played nine holes at Shoal Creek on Monday.
“Oh, I’m getting a phone call,” Danielle chuckled as her phone lit up.
It was her mother, Grace Lee, who often travels with her daughter.
“’You called me during the press conference,’” Danielle explained to her mother. “’Can you go back to my spot on the range, please? Because I’m doing a press conference right now. Ok, cool. I’ll see you there later. Bye.’”
But that wasn’t the only call that came up during her press conference.
Danielle, like most players in the field, hasn't been able to get as familiar with Shoal Creek as she would have liked. Subtropical Storm Alberto had a hand in that, limiting practice time on the already oversaturated track. Monday, Danielle squeezed in a quick round on Shoal Creek’s back nine. But as practice rounds were cancelled Tuesday and during the morning on Wednesday, Danielle didn’t get to play the front nine. She planned to put her name on a standby list in hopes of playing the other half of the course on Wednesday afternoon.
“As long as there's a fairway and a green, there's nothing really I can do anything about,” Danielle said, taking the weather in stride. “I'm sure some people are definitely stressed out. It's the U.S. Open. They can't practice.”
But Danielle got a virtual tour of sorts via a phone call with PGA Tour professional, Trey Mullinax, who grew up in the Birmingham area and played for the University of Alabama. Mullinax, a winner on the Web.com Tour, planned to walk Shoal Creek this week with Danielle. But when Mullinax earned his way into the field at the Memorial Tournament being played this week on the PGA Tour, Danielle had to rely on a call from her friend for the inside scoop.
“He walked me through the whole golf course from one to 18 on the phone,” said Danielle. “I feel like I've played it. I have the yardage book. My caddie is stressed out. He hasn't walked it. I'm really okay.”
This wasn’t the first time Danielle relied on other professionals to help her get familiar with new courses. In 2014, when the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open were both staged at Pinehurst, Danielle borrowed Dustin Johnson’s yardage book. In 2017 she relied on a call with her brother Alex, who is also a professional golfer, during the week of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club. Alex walked his sister through the layout, helping her strategize a plan for the week, which resulted in her first major victory on Tour. Danielle's call with Mullinax could help her find similar success at the U.S. Women’s Open, in an event where she's struggled in years past and has has yet to crack the top 10 in eight prior starts.
“Whoever knows the golf course the best when they reach out, I'm open ears,” said Danielle.
When opportunity calls, she's ready to answer.