Kang birdies 18th hole to win Women’s PGA Cham­pi­onship

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

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.

AP Photo/Charles Rex Ar­bo­gast

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.

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