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U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Megan Khang’s Unlikely Path to Women’s Open Contention June 4, 2021 | San Francisco, Calif. By Ron Sirak

For the second consecutive year, Megan Khang has played herself into contention at a U.S. Women's Open. (Darren Carroll/USGA)

76th U.S. Women's Open Home

When Megan Khang was a rookie on the United States Team in the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles, she was asked how she would handle the Scottish weather.

“I played high school golf in Massachusetts,” she replied. “I know wind and rain.” In fact, the Khang family knows adversity in all its forms, and they know about sacrificing for the U.S. Perhaps that’s why Megan has been so solid in the U.S. Women’s Open.

Negotiating the chilly fog that hangs over The Olympic Club on many mornings, Khang carved out a 1-under-par 70 in Round 2 on Friday to stand at 4-under 138 going in the weekend of the 76th U.S. Women’s Open, the championship she first qualified for at age 14 and the major in which she has performed the best, finishing fifth last year at Champions Golf Club in Houston and T-10 in 2018.

“Today's round was pretty solid,” Khang said. “When you hit it into the rough you hope you make par and you're fine making bogeys. You know it's going to happen out there. Just kind of always trying to make sure you make more birdies than bogeys. But luckily enough I was able to save myself some opportunities down the stretch and just kind of take it easy and stay focused on the present moment.”

For the 23-year-old Khang, the road to USGA championships has been truly unique. Her father Lee and mother Nou escaped with their families across the Mekong River from Laos into Thailand in 1975 as the Vietnam War was winding down. Their Hmong people helped the Americans during the war and when it was clear the Communists would take over, leaving was the wise thing to do.

Lee Khang didn’t know what golf was when he arrived in the U.S. at the age of 8, and he learned the game by reading magazines and watching videos. He didn’t swing a club until he was 32 yet became Megan’s coach, quitting his job as an auto mechanic. The family lived on Nou’s teacher’s salary in a house off nine-hole Harmon Golf Club in Rockland, Mass.

“I'm so proud of my dad,” Khang said that chilly day in Scotland. “I don't tell him enough. I mean, I'm his kid, so I'm not going to tell him enough. But I'm very proud of both my parents. My mom took a risk of having my dad quit his job to focus on golf and coaching myself. It was a risk she was willing to take. And if she hadn't been so willing, I probably would not be here today. I probably wouldn't be playing golf.”

Khang reached the semifinals of the 2013 U.S. Girls’ Junior and was the low amateur in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open before turning professional at age 18 in 2015. While Khang has yet to win on the LPGA Tour, with a top finish of T-3 at the Blue Bay event in China in 2019, she has been a consistent player. She earned her card at the 2015 Qualifying School and has kept it easily ever since, with 22 career top-10 finishes and a steady progression up the yearly money list to No. 30 in 2020.

On Friday, she opened with a birdie and played the first nine holes in even-par 35. She birdied No. 12 and followed a bogey on No. 16 with another birdie on the 17th hole, closing with a par to cap her 1-under-par round.

“I definitely learned that you can't win it the first day or the second day,” she said about the experience from eight previous starts in the U.S. Women’s Open. “No matter what event you're at it's never a sprint, it's a marathon, and just kind of keep staying positive, give yourself chances and really kind of stay within yourself and try not to get ahead of yourself.”

Khang is familiar with being on the leader board at the U.S. Women’s Open. She was tied for third after 36 holes in December at Champions and four strokes back in fifth place going into the final round. A solid 72 left her at 1-over-par 285, four strokes behind A Lim Kim, who closed with a 67.

“As much as I'd love to say like yes, it does give me confidence where I can play well in an event like this, but at the same time, it's such different conditions,” she said about whether her success in Houston translates to San Francisco. “It's a new year. It's a new setup. It's just kind of, like I said, embracing the new environment, new golf course, and just giving it all you've got.”

One similarity in the U.S. Women’s Open at Champions in December and Olympic in June is chilly weather.

I don't know if I like it,” Khang said with a smile. “It's just I grew up in the Northeast and this is the kind of weather we had. Lydia joked with me this morning. She was like, ‘Oh, you know it's cold when Megan wears pants.’ But no, I guess this kind of weather makes me feel kind of at home.”

The Khangs fought their way out of Laos for a new home in America and thought their way into the world of golf. Whether it was working with the U.S. during the war, representing the U.S. in the Solheim Cup or competing at the highest level of the USGA, the Khangs have always had their eye on the biggest prize. This time it could be the U.S. Women’s Open.

Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA digital channels.

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