Kang birdies 18th hole to win Women’s PGA Championship
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — From a young age, Danielle Kang’s parents instilled in her the belief that anything was possible.
Even major championships.
Kang birdied the final hole to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on Sunday for her first LPGA Tour title, edging defending champion Brooke Henderson.
Kang bogeyed the tricky par-3 17th, and Henderson closed with two birdies to move into a tie for the lead, coming up just short on a 30-foot eagle putt on the par5 18th. But Kang responded with two solid shots to get to the green in two, and then two-putted for the victory.
“I just told myself it was my week. It was my day,” Kang said.
Kang lost her father, K.S., to cancer in 2013, but her mother, Grace Lee, was one of the first people to congratulate her on the victory. She also FaceTimed with brother Alex, an instrumental figure in her performance at Olympia Fields, after the trophy presentation.
Kang’s father caddied for her when she won the U.S. Women's Amateur in 2010 and 2011. She keeps a journal where she writes messages to her father.
“If I could wish anything, I would wish that my dad saw me won,” said Kang, wiping tears from her eyes. “I think that it’s been a really difficult road for me the past four or five years. It’s life, though, you pick yourself up and you have to keep working hard at it, and then believe in what you’re doing, and not letting yourself down.
“I just know that he’s here for it. What are the odds that my first win is a major? Pretty sure he had something to do with it. It’s just incredible. But I know that he was there, because I felt — I felt him with me every day, and I still do.”
It was another great finish for the LPGA Tour’s second major of the season. Henderson beat Lydia Ko in a playoff last year at Sahalee in Washington.
The 24-year-old Kang trailed Henderson and Chella Choi by one after she bogeyed the par-4 10th. But Kang moved in front with four straight birdies on Nos. 11-14, getting hot with her putter at the right time.
Kang also had a clutch 21-foot par putt at 16 on her way to a 4-under 68 and the winner’s check of $525,000. Her previous best finish in a major was a tie for 14th in the 2012 U.S. Women's Open.
Henderson closed with a 66 to finish a stroke back. Choi, who was tied with Kang for the lead coming into the day, was third at 10 under after a 71.
“Really, she won this, and I was just trying to make it a little bit closer and maybe force a playoff but like I said, I played great and I wouldn’t really take anything back,” Henderson said.
Mi Hyang Lee (67), Amy Yang (68) and Sei Young Kim (68) tied for fourth at 9 under, and Lexi Thompson (69) and Inbee Park (68) were another two strokes back.
Thompson looked ready to make a charge, beginning with three birdies and no bogeys on her front nine. But she sputtered down the stretch.
Danielle Kang, right, is hugs by her mother, Grace Lee, after Kang won the Women’s PGA Championship Sunday at Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Ill.