U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Notebook: Khang Hangs On For Low-Amateur Honor July 12, 2015 | Lancaster, Pa. By Stuart Hall

Megan Khang, 17, was solid throughout the week, carding 12 birdies during the championship on her way to earning low-amateur honors. (USGA/Chris Keane)

Megan Khang knew she was in contention at the U.S. Women’s Open following Saturday’s third round.

Granted, Khang was not in contention to become the first amateur to win the championship since Catherine Lacoste 48 years ago. Rather, she was in the mix for low-amateur honors. 

"I did know where I was because the two behind me, Mariel [Galdiano] and Muni [He] are actually my friends, so we're all close,” said Khang, who was 4 over par through 54 holes, one shot ahead of Galdiano and He. "I know we're all friends, but on the golf course we're fighting to the last second. So I knew where I was, and I wanted it to stay that way."

Khang, 17, of Rockland, Mass., made sure of that on Sunday, shooting a final-round 71 to finish at 5-over 285, one stroke ahead of Galdiano, 17, of Pearl City, Hawaii, who also shot 71 and finished a stroke back at 6 over.

He, 16, of the People's Republic of China, and Hannah O’Sullivan, 17, of Chandler, Ariz., each finished at 8-over 288 in their first U.S. Women’s Open appearances. Emma Talley, 21, of Princeton, Ky., the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, finished at 11-over 291. 

Khang, who recently graduated from Rockland High School, but has yet to commit to college plans, was two strokes shy of the low 72-hole score by an amateur: 283 by Grace Park in 1999.

"I knew what I had to do, which was just play my own game because the hard part about making the cut was over,” said Khang, a semifinalist in the 2013 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. "So I just played relaxed out here."

While not a win in the truest sense, Khang had no problem categorizing this finish among her brief career accomplishments. 

“It's definitely among the top, I think maybe No. 1 right now, besides Kingsmill, because it is the U.S. Women's Open and it is the best women in the world,” said Khang, who tied for 58th at the LPGA Tour’s Kingsmill Championship in May. "It's great to compete out here with them."

Galdiano will not receive a medal for finishing as the second-lowest amateur, but her bonus came late Friday when she was one of five of 25 amateurs to make the cut.

"When I found out I just made it, I was like let’s take this home,” she said.

Because the Hawaii qualifier for next month’s U.S. Women’s Amateur was being held earlier this week, Galdiano faced the prospect of missing out on the championship at Portland (Ore.) Country Club. By making the cut and finishing 72 holes, Galdiano is exempt, along with the other four amateurs.

Khang and Talley are opting out of the U.S. Women’s Amateur due to scheduling conflicts. Khang has accepted a sponsor exemption for a Symetra Tour event, while Talley is heading to stage 1 of the LPGA Tour’s Qualifying Tournament.

Inbee Park’s Putter Not Her Friend in Final Round
Inbee Park gave herself a nice 27th birthday present with a 3-under 67 score in the final round. The present she really wanted, though, was the winning score.

Park, the 2008 and 2013 Women’s Open champion, tied Stacy Lewis for third at 5-under 275, three strokes back of champion In Gee Chun.

"Earlier in the week, my ball-striking wasn't that great,” said Park, whose 67 was her lowest round of the week. "But over the weekend, my putting was just really off. I had two or three putts today which just were not necessary.

"I feel like I left seven or eight putts out there yesterday and today. There were so many putts I should have made but missed. It was a close one, but maybe not my time this time."

Considered one of the top putters in the game, Park needed 31 and 32 putts, respectively, in shooting successive rounds of 70 on Friday and Saturday. For the week, Park averaged 29.5 putts per round, tied for fifth in the championship.

During her U.S. Women’s Open wins, she ranked second with fewer than 29 per round. 

"I've got to work on my putting a little bit more,” said Park. 

Kang Wins Low-Amateur Honors

 

Sunday Best Helps Jane Park, Henderson Make 2016 Field

Jane Park is encouraged about a strong finish to the 2015 season after tying for fifth place. She can also pencil in a trip to the 71st Women’s Open as a result.

All top-10 finishers this week at Lancaster Country Club are exempt into next year’s championship at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif. 

"I wasn't really thinking about any of that,” said Park, who shot a 2-under 68 on Sunday to finish at 3-under 277. "Now that you mention it, that's kind of cool. And that's why I'm so proud of the way I did this week; I was able to stay in the moment."

Park, 28, of Atlanta, went through sectional qualifying to earn her 11th championship berth, winning medalist honors at the Atlanta sectional at Druid Hills Golf Club on May 18.

The finish was Park’s best in a Women’s Open since she tied for 10th as an amateur in 2006, and it was her best professional finish since October 2013. Her best finish in 15 previous LPGA Tour starts this season had been a tie for 13th at the JTBC Founders Cup in March.

"I prepared a lot for this tournament,” said Park, who in 2004 won the U.S. Women’s Amateur and played on the USA Curtis Cup Team. "I did a lot of specific practice. And I felt really, really calm and very prepared coming into this event.

"It's a learning process for me still, even after eight years on tour. I keep trying to learn a little more about myself and my game every week. I learned leaps and bounds this week.”

Seventeen-year-old Brooke Henderson of Canada can also begin planning for next year after tying Park, Pernilla Lindberg, 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu, Morgan Pressel and Shiho Oyama. Henderson was exempt into this year’s field after finishing 10th at Pinehurst No. 2 a year ago.

“I think Thursday and Friday, you really needed to get a good start and I didn't really quite do that. I was sort of close to the cut line on Friday, which is never a good thing,” said Henderson, who opened with rounds of 70 and 73 before closing 68-66 on the weekend.

“But after that I knew I had to go low to climb up the leader board a little bit so I tried to do that. The conditions here on this course have changed a lot over the last couple of days, and I think paying attention to those and knowing where to hit your shots was really important today.”

No. 16 Provides Chance For Heroics

Although she fell short of victory, Amy Yang put pressure on eventual champion In Gee Chun by sinking an 11-foot eagle putt on the par-4 16th hole. The eagle provided drama that was helped by the hole’s unusually short setup on Sunday.

Championship director Ben Kimball set up No. 16 to play 235 yards for the final round, more than 100 yards shorter than it played in the first three rounds. With a green reachable from the tee, No. 16 gave the field a late-round scoring opportunity and played as the easiest hole on the course, with a scoring average of 3.3968.

“I actually like that, when they put the tee box forward,” said Yang, whose eagle brought her within a stroke of Chun. “And I already had practiced going to the green during the practice round.”

Yang’s eagle was one of three recorded on Sunday, all on No. 16. Michelle Wie made the highlight reel when her tee shot rattled off the flagstick, narrowly missing a hole-in-one and a rare double eagle.

“I told my caddie I was going to aim at the pin and I hit it good, and that was probably the best one I made all week,” Wie said.

No. 16 yielded 35 birdies, the most of any hole on Sunday. The field combined to make 22 pars and only three bogeys.

Brittany Lang, who birdied the hole and shot a 2-under 68 on Sunday, was among the players who praised the hole’s layout.

“I love the USGA and the U.S. Open. I love how they set the holes up differently,” Lang said after her round. “I hit a 3-wood, and I think a lot of the longer hitters will hit 3-woods or 5-woods, which is cool. It’s fun to have a drivable hole like that.”

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites. Adam Zielonka of the USGA contributed.

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