Danielle Kang comes home for LPGA’s Mediheal Championship

VENTURA — It’s homecoming week for former Westlake High and Pepperdine standout Danielle Kang. This week’s LPGA Mediheal Championship is being played at the Saticoy Club near Ventura, a club where Kang regularly practiced and played.

As a teenager, Kang would make the 30-minute drive from Westlake Village to Somis so she could work on her short game and hone the golf skills that have allowed her to become one of the LPGA’s top players.

The club was nice enough to give Kang an honorary membership, giving her free reign to play the course any time she wanted, which she did a lot.

“I used to come out here with a couple of the men’s Pepperdine golf team,” Kang said. “Andrew Putnam and I played a lot of putting contests out here. I just used to play the golf course however I wanted in the afternoon. I got in trouble because I went from the wedge area and blasted it to the trees into the 11th green, and from the 11th green I hit drivers onto the 10th green. I flipped the cart on 1 and (PGA Tour player) David Lipsky was in the cart and almost died. Fourteen years later, I go, ‘Wow, what a brat (I was).’ The stories are endless.”

Kang would love to make another Saticoy memory this week by winning the tournament at a course that means so much to her. Kang is looking forward to having a large gallery of friends and family follow her this week and to the challenge she expects Saticoy to provide her and the rest of the field.

“The golf course is really difficult,” Kang said. “It’s really a ball-striker’s golf course. You have to manipulate it off the tee and into the greens. That’s something that I’m good at I believe, and I have to just rely on the fact that I am going to be feeling good and trust my swing. Around the greens, I just have to stay patient. This isn’t a golf course where I’m just going to go and try and make a bunch of putts. If you can make a bunch of putts out here, you have every right to win. Greens are really tough. I’m going to attack it with my ball striking and giving myself best chance for pars and birdies.”

Earlier this year, it appeared Kang’s chances of playing in this tournament were slim, having been diagnosed with a benign tumor on her spine that forced her to miss more than three months of the season.

But with the help of her doctors and a support team that includes swing coach Butch Harmon and a talented group of physical therapists and trainers, Kang has changed everything from her swing to her sleep schedule in order to allow her to get to a point where she is comfortable enough physically to compete.

Kang returned to the Tour two weeks ago at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, where against all odds she nearly won. Kang fired a final-round 64, including an eagle on her final hole that put her in a playoff with teen sensation Atthaya Thitikul. The teen made a birdie on the second playoff hole to win the tournament, denying Kang what would have been her seventh LPGA title.

The tears that Kang shed following the playoff loss were tears of happiness, as she realized she is closer to being back than even she realized.

“There was part of me that I didn’t think I would ever play again or contend, but here I am. I’m not that far off and I’m happy about that,” Kang told reporters after her runner-up finish.

The scare with her back has given Kang a new outlook on not just golf but on life as well. While she remains extremely driven to have success in everything she does, Kang said she’s also learned how to better handle adversity and even failure.

“I’ve learned whatever the struggle is you’re going through, if you keep going, you’re to get through it,” Kang said. “It might not be how you want it or why you got there, but that’s fine. I want to play well in Saticoy, but I don’t know if I wake up tomorrow and I can’t do as much. I’m going to do my best. That might be frustrating, but I’m doing the best I can do today so that I’ll be better tomorrow.”

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