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.