Danielle Kang contends at Inverness with support from afar, including boyfriend Maverick McNealy
Players are allowed to check the scores on their phones this week, but Kang won’t do it. During the 45-minute afternoon delay that allowed maintenance staff to squeegee the greens, Kang phoned her instructor, Butch Harmon, to ask for advice and inquire about the scores.
“I felt like I was struggling, and I was kind of behind the field,” said Kang. “He’s like, ‘You’re doing fine.’ ”
Kang held the lead at 6 under when Round 2 started. She dropped one stroke and ended the day in a share of first with two European Solheim Cup players, Celine Boutier (71) and Jodi Ewart Shadoff (72) at 5-under 139.
Kang’s group was put on the clock on the eighth hole and remained on the clock for the rest of the round. She tried not to worry about it but wasn’t successful, noting that she’s “out of practice” in being timed. Add in all the weather challenges and it got a bit overwhelming.
She’ll no doubt hash it all out with boyfriend Maverick McNealy tonight. He’s in contention as well at the PGA Tour’s Barracuda Championship on the West Coast.
“We talk about the best shots we hit, the best putt we made, the most unlucky shot we got,” she said. “We talk a lot of golf. We just go ‘Babe you would’ve loved this shot, I hit this high cut over a tree.’ … He actually 3D satellites on maps and looks at my entire golf course track. … I don’t do that for his tournaments.
“Hopefully he plays well today, and it will be a really exciting Sunday for us.”
Another phone call in particular helped this week too. Over the extended break, Kang talked to Annika Sorenstam about tackling 54-hole events.
“One of the things was just go out there and be aggressive and put on the gas,” said Kang, “and that’s what I did and shot 6 under yesterday. It’s definitely a benefit going into the weekend.”
Sunday at Inverness could turn into a Solheim-like shootout, a fitting end for a club set to host the biennial event in 2021.
Sarah Schmelzel missed her first three cuts of 2020 and now finds herself two strokes off the lead after carding a 3-under 69 in Saturday afternoon’s downpour. The LPGA sophomore has one career top 10, a sixth-place at last year’s Cambia Portland Classic.
Only a dozen players broke par after two rounds. Fifteen players are within five shots of the lead, including a rookie (Yui Kawamoto), a player who had retired from the LPGA (Lee-Anne Pace) and a woman competing in her first LPGA event since giving birth last January (Brittany Lang).