There's a scene in the classic film "Vegas Vacation" (and no, that description isn't debatable) where Rusty Griswold – a C+ student, as his own mother calls him - explains his penchant for winning cars through slot machines while moonlighting as mover-and-shaker Nick Papagiorgio.
“I put a dollar in, I won a car; I put a dollar in, I won a car; I put a dollar in, I won a car; I put a dollar in, I won a car.”
Danielle Kang knows the feeling – sort of.
A resident of the city which yielded all of those vehicles to the fictional “Mr. Papagiorgio,” she traveled halfway around the world to find similar recent fortune.
At last week’s Blue Bay LPGA event on Hainan Island in China, she holed an 8-iron from 151 yards in the opening round for an ace. Eight days later, at the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship, she repeated the feat with a 7-iron from 156 yards. Each came on the course’s 17th hole, each using a TaylorMade ball marked with the number 17.
Officials at the National Hole in One Registry estimate the odds of aces in back-to-back events at roughly 350,000-to-1, but even that news buries the lede.
The real story here is that with two swings, Kang earned two cars – a Buick LaCrosse with the first one and an Audi A6 T2.0 with the second.
“To be ‘that golfer who keeps winning all the cars’ just feels blessed,” the 22-year-old said in an email interview with GolfChannel.com.
Others would use, well, different words. Playing partner and friend Lizette Salas joked that she was upset because the latter ace forced her to twice back off her own subsequent tee shot. Another player, Hillary Packard, kiddingly threatened to revoke her friendship over jealousy. And Kang’s own Uncle Howie asked, “Who has a problem winning two cars and struggling to find them a home?”
Now he has an answer.
Kang’s home in Vegas only has a one-car garage, which currently holds her Porsche Cayenne. Time to break out that “first world problems” hashtag.
“I don't have a place for all the cars,” she explained. “My mom has a three-car garage, so I'll store my ‘old’ cars there.”
Before you start envisioning Kang with a fleet of automobiles affixed with fitting vanity plates like “ACE1” and “ACE2” the facts get in the way of what would be a good story.
She’s already decided to take the equivalent monetary value for the Buick and will gift the Audi to her brother, Alex, who was with her in Taiwan, but left Friday morning before the hole-in-one.
As if the story of aces to win cars in consecutive tournaments isn’t impressive enough, Kang adds this disclaimer, which was running through her mind while standing on the teebox prior to the most recent hole-in-one.
“For some weird reason, I had this gut feeling that I may make another one,” she insisted. “When I saw the ball land and kick toward the hole, I thought, ‘Wow, this actually is going to happen!’”
For the rest of the golf world who’d like to card an ace every week or so, she offered up a little insight into the secret.
“I live by what I see and what I feel ,” she explained. “I think that's the secret to holes-in-one. First you have to imagine it going in before hitting the shot, and then trust your feelings.”
Kang will readily admit to having some divine inspiration for these shots, as well.
Last November, her father, K.S., passed away after battling brain and lung cancer. She feels like the man who caddied for her as an amateur is still keeping a close eye on her performances.
“For this to happen to me,” she said, “I know my dad is up there in heaven watching after me.”
Now in her third full season on the LPGA, the world’s 104th-ranked player is still seeking her first victory. But even when offered the loaded question of whether she’d trade the aces and the cars for a win, she wouldn’t budge.
“I won't look back and ‘trade’ anything for better, because everything happens for a reason,” she said. “Trading my aces and the cars for one win is completely unequal. This is something that won't just happen to anyone. I'm very thankful to be that someone.”
With two recent swings, Kang has earned acclaim, she’s earned publicity and – as if we could ever forget – she’s earned a couple of cars. Or at least the monetary equivalent thereof.
Maybe she’ll earn a nickname, too. It could be Ace. Or Auto-matic. Or hey, maybe they’ll just call her Ms. Papagiorgio.