WEST DES MOINES, IOWA | You don’t name a Man of the Match on Day 1, but if you had to name a Woman of the Day for Friday, Solheim Cup rookie Danielle Kang would be the runaway choice. Out in the morning with Lizette Salas, Kang not only made the 5-foot putt on the 18th green at Des Moines Golf and Country Club to clinch Team USA’s only full point of the foursomes session, she set the tone early by raising the roof on the first tee, insisting that the crowd cheer throughout her opening drive.
She repeated that ritual in her afternoon four-ball match with Michelle Wie, in which Kang holed putt after crucial putt in a hard-fought, 3-and-1 victory over Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Madelene Sagstrom. Six, seven, 10, or 15 feet, it didn’t matter: Kang rolled them in from everywhere while bringing an exuberance and electricity to the team that might be expected from a veteran but not a player who struck her first shot in a Solheim Cup at 8:22 Friday morning.
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She didn’t even have to make her 6-footer at the par-3 17th in her afternoon four-ball match. When Ewart Shadoff and Sagstrom failed to make birdie, they conceded Kang’s birdie and a match in which neither European played badly. Kang and Wie’s victory helped spark a U.S. turnaround in which the Americans went from 2½-1½ down after the morning foursomes to 5½-2½ ahead come day’s end.
“I absolutely love this,” Kang said. “It’s the most exciting tournament I’ve ever played in. Everybody kept telling me how amazing it was going to be, and I kept waiting for that moment to hit (that first) tee shot. I was, like, I want to hear the roar. I want to hear everyone keep chanting. I love it. I’m feeling it. It’s such an adrenaline rush. Everything about it exceeded my expectations. I’ve had so much fun out here.”
Thankfully for U.S. captain Juli Inkster, fun is contagious and Kang appears to be infecting the rest of the team. “I’ve been waiting six years for this,” Salas said of her partnership with Kang. “We knew right off the bat that we’d be great at this. She picked me up when I was down and she had all the faith in the world in me. And that’s what a partner has to do. I’m just so grateful and so proud of her.
“She kept her composure. And you know she didn’t play like a rookie. She played like a major champion.”
More than that, Kang behaved like a leader, a spreader of confidence, the perfect teammate, and a spreader of that rarest contagion in a pressure-cooker like the Solheim Cup. Fun.