SINGAPORE – South Korea’s dominance of women’s golf and Japan’s home ground advantage may give both countries the edge in the chase for gold at the Tokyo Olympics but do not discount the rest of the field, warned US star Danielle Kang.
The Americans, after all, won the first three events of this year’s LPGA Tour season while unheralded Thai Patty Tavatanakit claimed a shock win at the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first Major, earlier this month.
Kang, ranked fifth in the world, was one of only two players – the other being Kim Sei-young – to capture two titles in last season’s coronavirus-shortened Tour.
No wonder Kang, 28, felt an Olympic gold was very much up for grabs.
In a Zoom conference call on Tuesday (April 13), she said: “As long as you give yourself a chance, anyone has an opportunity to win. Golf in general is about capitalising on that opportunity and everything has to fall right into place.
“At the Olympics, there will be 60 players so to be able to win would be just up to giving yourself a chance to compete in Tokyo.”
While each country is limited to a maximum of four entrants for the Tokyo Games, Kang will need such optimism and confidence though.
World No. 3 Kim and her compatriots Ko Jin-young (No. 1) and Park In-bee (No. 2) occupy the top three spots and Park is the defending Olympic champion. There are another three South Koreans in the top 15 and in the last 20 Majors stretching back to 2017, the country has bagged 10 of them.
In these big tournaments with the highest stakes, the next best tally is two for Thailand, Sweden and the US (Kang at the 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and Angela Stanford at the 2018 Evian Championship).
No wonder then that Kang recognised the significance of Hideki Matsuyama’s recent breakthrough at the Masters. The Japanese on Sunday became the first Asian to triumph at the men’s Major.
She said: “It’s going to have a huge impact around the world. I was watching Hideki and he showed grit – he’s been on tour for years, doing something that has never been done and being able to hold yourself with that much confidence and steadiness showed a lot of perseverance and character.
“A lot of people (who believe they) can’t do something will feel that they can be a Masters champion, that they can hoist the Masters trophy.”
While she was thrilled to return to Singapore for the April 29-May 2 HSBC Women’s World Championship – the event was cancelled last year due to Covid-19 – Kang was circumspect about the problems in the US where there have been a rise in attacks on Asians, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assaults.
Kang, who is of South Korean descent and was born and raised in the United States, said these incidents have been “very hard to watch” and added: “I actually believe there needs to be a cultural class in education (on top of) history, economics, math, English class because what I think is right, may not be right for some other ethnicity.
“I believe that’s a hole in the education system that people need to be educated about.”