Danielle Kang had collected two medals at USGA championships in the last year. This time, she took home the trophy.
Kang, 17, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., earned a 2-and-1 victory over Jessica Korda, 17, of Bradenton, Fla., to claim the 2010 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship Sunday at the par-72, 6,559-yard Charlotte Country Club.
Kang, who earned stroke-play medalist honors at the Women’s Amateur a year ago and at the U.S. Girls' Junior last month, made a 4-footer for birdie on the 35th hole to claim her first national championship.
"It's so awesome," said Kang when asked to describe her emotions after winning the title. "I don't know, but I even told myself I don't understand why people cry when they win stuff, but now I do. You're just so happy you did it."
In the scheduled 36-hole final, Kang got off to a hot start, birdieing three of the first four holes. But Korda started equally well, with birdies on the first and third holes, to keep pace with Kang. Kang’s birdie on the fourth hole gave her a 1-up lead, and a bogey from Korda on No. 5 put Kang 2 up.
Kang, who graduated high school early and started her freshman year at Pepperdine University in January, held that 2-up lead going into the break between rounds.
Korda knew she had to be more aggressive heading to the afternoon round.
"I was a little tentative this morning," said Korda. "I was getting really frustrated with myself not only because I wasn't making, like I was making birdies, but then I was frustrated at her making birdies because I wasn't used to that. All week if I made a birdie then someone else would miss. Then I went to go take a shower [between rounds], and I felt completely calm and I thought I was going to get it back."
She almost did.
A bogey by Kang on the 23rd hole allowed Korda to cut the deficit to 1 down, and a birdie by Korda from 4 feet on No. 27 squared the match.
Korda took her first lead of the day on the 30th hole when she hit her approach shot to within a foot, which was conceded for birdie. Kang hit her approach shot into a greenside bunker and was unable to get up and down.
But Korda’s advantage would be short-lived. After the two traded pars at the 31st hole, Kang made a 5-footer for birdie on No. 32 to again square the match.
The turning point came at the par-4 16th hole, the 34th of the match. Korda’s approach shot found a greenside bunker – her only missed green of the afternoon round – and she was unable to get up and down from 12 feet. Kang’s birdie attempt from 40 feet went 5 feet past the hole and she converted the par putt to take a 1-up lead.
"I didn’t know she was in the bunker, but I knew she had a chip and she short-sided herself," said Kang of Korda’s approach shot on 16. "So I told my dad, middle of the green. That’s all I need to do."
One hole later, Kang hit an 8-iron to 4 feet. After Korda missed her birdie try from 7 feet, Kang calmly made her birdie putt to claim the championship.
The final featured a display of excellent golf from both players. With the usual match-play concessions, Kang was the equivalent of five under par, and Korda was the equivalent of six under par.
Korda, a member of the victorious 2010 USA Curtis Cup Team, said the difference in the final was her putting.
"I was a little more conservative," said Korda, a high school senior. "But Danielle was just making birdie after birdie after birdie, birdies on top of my birdies, birdies before my birdies. It was a birdie barrage."
For Kang, it was the culmination of a journey that started at the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club, where she made the cut but struggled with the difficult layout.
"When I medaled at the U.S. [Girls'] Junior, I was like, I always put myself down," said Kang. "I kept saying I can't putt, I can't do this. I was really negative. After Oakmont and the U.S. [Girls’] Junior I was like, 'I'm actually not that bad a player. I'm not that bad.'"
And now she is the 110th United States Women’s Amateur champion.
The 2010 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Charlotte, N.C. – Results following Sunday’s championship final at the 2010 U.S. Women’s Amateur at the 6,559-yard, par-72 Charlotte Country Club:
Danielle Kang, Thousand Oaks, Calif. (144) def. Jessica Korda, Bradenton, Fla. (144), 2 and 1