RADDA Q&A with Matt Kang

Matt Kang

Tell us a little about your background. Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Toronto, Canada. Just a kid in a big city. My parents are immigrants from Korea, so I grew up multiculturally. I loved learning about food, culture and fashion. Toronto is a melting pot and it allowed me to experience all of the above. 


You’ve had an interesting journey before finding the game of golf. What did your life look like before golf? Tell us what attracted you to the game, and what was the driving force to make it as a PGA pro?

Haha yeah, I definitely did not start my career the traditional route. My life was surrounded by the game of hockey from a young age. I did not grow up at the country clubs that’s for sure. The dream for me was always the NHL. Once I got drafted into the OHL, that’s where you have a real chance of thinking it could be a career. I played professional hockey for 2 years and ended up getting hurt at the age of 21. It felt like a sign that maybe it was time to move on and start a new career. I moved back to Toronto and got a “real” job for about a year and half working for Jamba Juice/Menchies… that did not go so well. My dad bought me a junior golf membership during that time to help me stay competitive and keep my physical and mental health sharp. This is where my golf journey began at age 23. 

Just like everyone else their first year I got hooked. Golf was the thing that really kept me stable. I went from being this child hockey star to working a 9 to 5 serving smoothies and sitting in meetings everyday. I felt like I lost my life. But after every shift, I'd drive to the range and hit balls or walk a quick 9 until sun down. It was a really dark first few years transitioning from athlete to someone trying to find themselves in the real world. Golf gave me everything I needed at that time to rediscover who I wanted to be. 

Fast forward to 10 years later. Here I am with a few gray hairs and still chasing my dreams of being one of the world’s best athletes. Not many people get the opportunity to be a professional athlete once let alone twice. This is a dream for me to be able to play at a very high level in two different sports. My motivation has only grown as time has gone by. Time will tell but I’m getting closer to where I want to be every single day. The driving force for me has always been to accomplish something that hasn’t been done before. Being unique in this sport and being an underdog motivates me to want to show the world anything can be done with hard work, sacrifice and commitment. There is no time table for success.


Has your experience as a pro hockey player helped you as a golfer? 

Yes. The first 6 or 7 years, I always questioned how hockey could help me in golf. I questioned why I ever played hockey. I never saw the connection of how I could use my previous career to push my current career. But as time went by, I realized hockey gave me the physical and mental foundation to chase this game. Hockey was actually a big insecurity for me. I never told anyone I used to play because it was just a hard story to tell the golf community. A Korean kid from Toronto, played pro hockey and then switched to golf, no one ever believed me haha.

Once I embraced my past, it really started to connect and it only boosted my confidence as a Pro golfer. The hockey community started coming back into my life and now I have some amazing friendships and support from some of my closest friends who have had amazing NHL careers. 


How was it adapting to the pro golf grind? 

Man what a punch in the gut I got starting this game. I really started from the ground up. When I started this journey my dad had moved to Korea for work purposes. I had to figure out everything on my own. I was a self-taught, hungry golfer who knew absolutely nothing about the game. 

In 2013, I packed my bags and moved to Daytona Beach, where I got my first taste of pro golf. It was tough and scary. I knew I was so far behind everyone, so I needed to practice all day long. I’m talking 10 hour range days and a lot of blisters. But those were the best memories; it’s how I fell in love with the game. 


Did you feel accepted as a golfer? Feel like an outsider?

Absolutely not. The first question you’re asked at every tournament is “where are you from” and “what college did you play for”? I never even went to college. Most golfers laughed at me like who does this kid think he is. Still to this day, I get judged for the same reasons but now I’m old haha

Being an outsider is something I love and it’s something I used as a positive. I realized that being different and unique is what separates me from everyone else. You can’t make up my career and journey. It’s my truth and my life that I lived that you just don’t find in sports.


What's your take on golf culture?

As I look at the golf industry right now, it’s obviously evolving and growing so fast. It's the new cool thing to do as they say. My worry is that cool doesn’t last and I hope everyone just falls in love with the game for what it is. There is nothing more enjoyable about dressing well and being competitive with your family or your buddies on a Saturday morning. Forget business and politics. Golf is the best game in the world.


Do you like what you see happening since the covid boom?

Of course. Golf was the sport that saved people during the hardest time of their lives. It’s exactly what happened to me when I quit hockey. The exposure of the game to different walks of life including creatives and talented people all over the world is a positive for the golf culture. Golf has connected me to so many amazing people that I would have never dreamed of meeting otherwise.


You’re very driven to make an impact, not just on the game of golf, but the lifestyle associated with the game. What do you have planned to make your mark? 

My goal is to just be Me. I’m not trying to be the coolest in the game or most popular. I’m an athlete and I want to be the best in the world. My entire life has been surrounded by sports and fashion. For many years I felt like I couldn’t and shouldn’t do anything but golf and I suppressed other things I enjoyed. I’ve learned recently that I can and should merge other passions with golf. For the first time, I’m able to do both and that is a dream come true for me. I’ve been very patient in trying to execute that vision and for once it seems like it’s my time so show who I am. I hope I can inspire anyone else who was an outsider or a late bloomer to chase their dreams and to be as creative as possible!


Tell us about your affiliation with Radda. How did you connect and what’re your plans with them?

I first heard about Radda from a stylist and friend of mine a few years back. It's a brand that’s been on my radar for a minute. A while back, I connected with Radda via IG. I was then introduced to Jason. Instantly we caught a vibe, as he was a hockey player growing up in California. Conversations gradually grew and we were able to connect in LA and we really had a great time talking about our passions, within hockey, fashion and golf. It’s rare to meet someone in this game that has the knowledge and passion for those three topics. It was like I finally met someone in this industry that understood me.

Here we are now. I’ve been brought on as a Partner of the brand. Most people in my shoes don’t usually get the opportunity to become an owner of something as special as this. To be able to partner with Radda and grow the brand as well as the game of golf is something I have dreamed of. It’s a brand that is aligned with my personality and vision. Jason and Ivan believe in me and I believe in them, it made sense to make it official.


You’ve played with some amazing personalities. Tell us about some of the more memorable rounds?

Yeah, this game has given me the privilege to call some really special athletes and creatives friends. I think the first thing that comes to mind is being able to play golf with some of my friends in the NHL . It’s brought me back to the game and has allowed me to find peace in my previous career. It’s been special to play with my buddies Auston Matthews and Jonathan Toews.

My dad visited recently and I was able to host him with Alice Cooper and Curtis Joseph. I’ve never seen my dad so nervous and excited. That was special to share my friendships and bring joy to the person who’s always sacrificed everything for me.

I’d say the most memorable round though was when I got married and my wife and I got to play Pebble Beach for the first time together on our honeymoon. The course was empty and we had a blast enjoying one of the best golf tracks in the world. We spoke about how the next time we came back, it’d be to play in the AT&T PGA tour event out there. Let’s hope that happens. 


Any courses you haven’t played that are on your bucket list?

To be honest, my favorite courses are the courses where I shoot the lowest scores hahah but if I had to pick one I’d say playing the RBC Canadian Open in Toronto. That’s been a dream of mine since I started this journey. The course changes all the time but this year it’s at Oakdale CC and that’s where I want to be!


You’re not a typical golfer, your life off the course is one that most wouldn’t expect. Tell us more about what's going on in your life off the course?

I think starting golf so late seemed like a disadvantage to start, but then evolved into a huge advantage. I worked harder and went anywhere I could to get better. Within 10 years of playing I’ve been able to visit over 30 countries and have lived in 6 countries within that short span. I put myself into any situation to connect with people and indulge in all the different cultures this game had to offer.

Right now, I’ve been able to really figure out who I am and what I want to be. I don’t want to just play golf. My goal is to use all my passions and bring them into the golf space, whether that’s using the game to market myself or different brands, to styling and dressing the way I’ve always wanted to on the course. I’ve built a very unique network of friends where I can bring all different walks of life together and use my platform to create things that haven’t been done yet.

Fashion has been a huge passion of mine. Before I started my golf career I was pretty deep into getting into the fashion retail space. To be able to play pro golf and have this partnership with Radda really hits home because now I’m able to do both. There are endless possibilities and together I think we can really create something special and long-lasting. RADDA is a golf brand but it has no limits and can influence so many other industries and people and my goal is to execute that vision. 

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