WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Drum majors don’t high-step into college football stadiums with more bravado.
As bold entrances in golf go, Danielle Kang’s is hard to top.
The first tee at the Solheim Cup is famous for twisting the insides of the sturdiest champions. The tension is supposed to be something short of paralyzing, the pressure suffocating.
Kang strutted through the tunnel to the first tee Friday as if some marching band was right behind her.
She came to have fun, and, wow, did she ever.
Kang owned her moment, her first time stepping onto this stage as a Solheim Cup rookie, and then she went on to own the Europeans.
Kang strutted, fist-pumped and high-fived her way through morning foursomes and afternoon fourballs, going 2-0 to help the United States take a commanding 5½-to-2½ lead on Day 1 at Des Moines Golf and Country Club. It equals the largest Day 1 lead in the history of these matches.
“I did not feel overwhelmed at all,” Kang said. “I love it. Seriously, I really love it.”
Kang teamed with Lizette Salas to defeat Carlota Ciganda and Caroline Masson, 1 up, in foursomes. Kang buried an 8-foot putt for par at the last to secure the victory.
Kang partnered with Michelle Wie in fourballs to defeat Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Madelene Sagstrom, 3 and 1.
Kang made one big putt after another in the afternoon to help the Americans win all four fourball matches, giving the United States its first sweep of a session in the history of the Solheim Cup.
Salas wasn’t surprised at how Kang took to the atmosphere.
“Danielle will agree with me on this, but she loves to be the center of attention,” Salas said. “She brings a fiery attitude to the Solheim Cup, which is great. She’s just meant for this. She loves it.”
“Like Michelle Wie says, I'm a princess,” Kang said. “I like the attention. I love the vibe. I want that crowd. That’s what we play for. I don't think it's just me. It’s what we all play for. It’s just magical, basically. I absolutely love it.”
What a day, what a summer for Kang.
The two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champ endured six frustrating years before breaking through to win her first LPGA title, and she did it in a big way. She made it a major this summer. She won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June.
And now this.
Kang’s entrance Friday set the tone for her big day.
She was fearless from the start.
At the first tee, with the patriotic celebrations and boisterous chanting engulfing her, Kang fed off it.
Playing in the second match off, Kang didn’t defer to Salas in the alternate-shot format. Kang hit the first tee shot.
“We talked about who would play the odd holes and who would play the even holes, and it just set up for Lizette to play the even holes,” Kang said. “But if anything, I wanted to hit the first shot.”
Before Kang did so, however, she sauntered around the tee box with a hand to her ear, beckoning the crowd to make more noise.
U.S. captain Juli Inkster watched in mild amusement.
“I was like, `OK, here we go,’” Inkster said. “I was a little nervous with her pumping up the crowd, but that’s her.”
Lining up behind her teed ball, Kang stepped off and waved her arms again, beckoning one more time for noise.
And then she striped her first drive down the middle.
“I don't think I planned any of it,” Kang said. “I like the roars. I like the noise.”
Kang said earlier in the week that she wanted the Iowa crowds so loud that she couldn’t hear her own caddie.
“I wasn't kidding when I said I want it to be so loud that I can't hear people,” Kang said. “I just feed off of the high energy. I'm a very upbeat person. So the mellow golf doesn't really fit me very well.”
Kang and Salas made their morning victory dramatic. They were 2 up before they three-putted the 17th hole.
Inkster said that only added to Kang’s fun.
“That’s where Danielle said to Lizette, `This only means more TV air time for us,’” Inkster said.
It set up Kang to bury that winning putt from 8 feet at the last.
“Danielle was amazing,” Inkster said. “Every time she had a 4- or 5-footer, she put it right in the heart. She told me she was going to play well. It’s better when you back it up.”