Danielle Kang Proud to Represent Korean Heritage on the LPGA Tour

Danielle Kang has always been one of the most patriotic players on the LPGA Tour. Catch her at a Solheim Cup and she’s pumping up the crowd, sporting a pair of knee-high American flag socks or rocking a pair of kicks decked out in the stars and stripes. 

At the Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown a few weeks ago, even when she didn’t have her best stuff, Kang was the first person to say how honored she was to represent her country and be a part of the United States Team, meaning every word of it. You couldn’t miss her mom, Grace Lee, dressed head-to-toe in USA garb that included floppy Uncle Sam hats and headpieces with red, white, and blue pinwheels

She’s also represented the United States in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a pinnacle in sports that few ever reach.

But there’s another side to Kang, one that she’s deeply proud of, and that’s her Korean heritage. The major champion was born in San Francisco, Calif. in 1992 to Grace and her late father, K.S. Kang, who both hail from the Republic of Korea, and Kang has made sure to learn as much as she can about her culture throughout her 30 years of life.

“I always wear the stars and stripes no matter where I go, whether it's Crown, Solheim Cup, Olympics. I'll always be an American. But deep down I'm always proud to be of Korean descent. There is a reason why I know how to read and write and speak fluently in Korean and I was born and raised in America,” Kang explained. “A lot of the Koreans get surprised on how well I speak and read. 

“It's because I think you have to really respect and embrace the heritage where we came from. I want to learn about the history of Korea and how we came to be. Learning about American history is the same way.

“For me embracing both heritages have been double the information and knowledge that I had to look up and learn, but I'm always proud to represent both countries.”
Danielle Kang of Team USA lines up a putt on the eighth green during the first round of the Solheim Cup at the Inverness Club on September 04, 2021 in Toledo, Ohio.

While she now calls Las Vegas, Nev. home, Kang travels frequently when she’s not playing LPGA Tour events, often taking extended trips to the Republic of Korea to spend time with friends and relatives. She’s quite close with Inbee Park and visits the former Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings No. 1 as much as she can, especially during the offseason.

Kang also travels to other parts of Asia to hang out with her LPGA Tour pals, doing things like snorkeling in Thailand with Ariya Jutanugarn. She even makes a point to support Asian companies when she can, debuting a new Japanese clothing sponsor, Descente, at the beginning of the 2023 season.

But Kang takes the most pride in being a role model for young Asian-American girls to look up to, someone that they can see staying true to themselves and who they can try to emulate as they chase their dreams, no matter if they are on or off the golf course.

“I want specifically Korean-American girls to know that you don't to have choose,” says Kang. I think that goes with whether it's second generation American, dash, whatever you may be - Mexican-American, Spanish-American, Euro-American, whatever you want to be. I don't want them to lose their identity.

“Sometimes we feel out of place because we're not fully American whether it's the way we look or talk or whatever it may be. But it doesn't really matter how you're perceived, as long as you know where your roots are and where you came from.

“You just be you and just be a badass that you are, whatever you may be. I think that's very important for me to show. I have no problem telling you that I am a Korean-American, telling you where I grew up. Also have no problem telling you it in Korean as well

“I want them to embrace who they are and be proud of it instead of looking at the negatives on why it could be better.”
Na-yeon Choi (2nd R) of South Korea watches her career highlight video with Inbee Park (2nd L) of South Korea, So-yeon Ryu (1st R) of South Korea, former player Ha-neul Kim (3nr L) of South Korea, Danielle Kang (1st L) of the United States after holing out during the final round of the BMW Ladies Championship at Oak Valley Country Club on October 23, 2022 in Wonju, South Korea

There are several Asian-American players on the LPGA Tour, but few have had the reach and impact that Kang has on young fans. And it’s that legacy of inspiration that Kang strives to leave behind when professional golf is in her rearview mirror. She wants to encourage the next generation of young women to seek out the game of golf by showing them that they can be successful, no matter who they are or where they come from, just like what the 13 Founders – the last of whom, Marlene Hagge-Vossler, died last week – did in creating the LPGA.

“I'm very thankful for the Founders because I wouldn't be here without them,” says Kang. “Hopefully one day there will be a (reporter) asking another young girl, asking the same questions when I'm not around, and hopefully I've made an impact for a little girl to say, ‘I want to play golf and I'm here because of Danielle Kang.’”

Danielle Kang of Team USA reacts to the crowd on the first tee during the first round of the Solheim Cup at the Inverness Club on September 04, 2021 in Toledo, Ohio.