ST. LOUIS – A little money on the line sometimes does more than a good lesson or productive warm-up session.
Danielle Kang used a friendly wager from her dad to shoot a 3-under 68 in the second-round of stroke-play qualifying and collect medalist honors – along with some cash – at the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Luckily, collecting on a wager from a parent is not a violation of Kang’s amateur status. Also lucky for Kang is that her dad Kye Sung – or K.S. – is “amazing” at reading greens.
“He reads my putts, all the lines,” Kang said. “If I got some speed on it, with my dad’s line, it’s going in.”
In the end, that collaborative effort amounted to seven birdies and an incredibly clutch 30-foot par putt on the 18th hole that earned Kang the USGA medal by one shot over Marina Alex and Jessica Korda.
“I skulled my chip and made a 30-foot comebacker,” said Kang. “My dad’s like, ‘I got to teach you how to hit that shot.’ ”
That putt was a culmination of what was an up-and-down day for the 16-year-old, who admitted she fought her swing and putter throughout the round.
“I played really well, but I made so many mistakes it was ridiculous,” Kang said.
Despite her age, Kang has a wealth of experience in USGA championships. In her three appearances in U.S. Girls’ Juniors, Kang has lost in the second round each time. She lost in the first round of her only other Women’s Am in 2007. Her only U.S. Women’s Open also came in 2007 at Pine Needles , where she shot 75-78 and missed the cut .
And what did all of that experience teach her?
“That you never give up, whether you are 4 down or 5 down. You just don’t give up,” she said.
A renewed focus has also propelled Kang into one of the better stretches of her junior career. A mainstay in AJGA events, Kang posted seven top-25 finishes in 2008, along with four top-10s. She tied for second at Mission Hills in June after going 69-71-71.
All of those good finishes lined up a verbal commitment to play for Pepperdine in 2010, which she said is 20 minutes from her home in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
If her run continues at the Women’s Am, Kang may not have to worry about paying for tuition.
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Marina Alex was in line to earn medalist honors, but two strokes – one from her and one from Danielle Kang – erased her name from the Women’s Am record books.
Alex, needing to convert a tricky, six-foot slider for an up-and-down par on the 18th hole, missed the putt and had to settle for second place in stroke-play qualifying.
“That was the toughest putt I had all day,” said Alex, who finished at 3-under 139. “This hole is one of the hardest out here.”
Actually, Marina, it’s the hardest. The 18th played to an average of 4.577 making it the most difficult hole at Old Warson Country Club in Round 2.
Kang stole medalist honors from Alex when she sank a 30-footer for par on the 18th an hour or so later.
Still, Alex is coming off a strong freshman season at Vanderbilt and feels good about her game heading into match play.
“I rolled my rock well this week,” said Alex, whose freshman year was highlighted by a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Women’s East Regional. “I just have to get my driving under control.”
Alex attributed work with renowned instructor Bob Toski and an extra emphasis on her short game at Vanderbilt to her improvement from the AJGA ranks to collegiate golf.
“Ball-striking wise, I’ve gained a lot of distance working with him. I learned to work the ball and having a variety of golf shots allows you to score so much better.”
Alex, who finished her freshman year ranked 56th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, turned 19 on Sunday.
“This is a good birthday present for myself,” Alex said. “Hopefully I’ll keep it up.”
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SHORT SHOTS: Jenny Shin, the 2006 U.S. Girls’ Junior champ used a 6-iron to ace the 158-yard 13th hole… Amy Anderson, this year’s U.S. Girls’ champ, was going for history in Round 2. Anderson, the overnight leader, could have become the third player to earn medalist honors at both the U.S. Girls’ and Women’s Am in the same year (Michiko Hattori, 1986; Vicki Goetz, 1990). She shot a second-round 75 and finished in a tie for eighth… There was a 6-for-1 playoff for the final match-play spot, but one player, Pei-Ying Tsai, did not show. The playoff was whittled down to Kristina Wong and Amelia Lewis with Lewis winning the final spot.