PINEHURST, N.C. – Per the USGA rule, no players in the field this week at the U.S. Girls’ Junior are allowed to employ a parent as a caddie. Luckily for Megan Khang, that doesn’t extend to adoptive golf parents.
That’s the moniker this tiny 12-year-old’s looper, Diane Nessralla, is going by here at the Country Club of North Carolina. They may be one of the few caddie-player duos in the field that finish each other’s sentences, as demonstrated when Diane tells the story of their first round of golf together a year and a half ago – an afternoon arranged by Khang’s parents because they thought the two would hit it off.
“That’s when I met her and played with her,” Nessralla begins.
“And fell in love with me,” Khang dutifully finishes.
It’s a statement Nessralla can’t deny.
A 2-handicapper herself back home at Halifax Country Club in Rockland, Mass., Nessralla has two grown sons, and always wanted a girl with whom to play golf. These days the two play together often, and both have a rare distinction back home in Massachusetts. Nessralla briefly held the course record at Halifax, a 4-under 69, before Khang did her one better.
“It took me 21 years to break that record held by a very good pro in New England,” Nessralla said, beaming with pride at the whole situation. “She broke it with a 68 in the rain for a state qualifier.”
The Girls’ Junior is only the second time Nessralla has caddied for Khang, but they’re one of the more entertaining pairs to watch on the course. There’s a lot of teasing between the two, but Nessralla still knows she has one very important job this week: To make sure Khang never gives up. When the chips are down – as was the case early in the first round of match play before Khang came back to beat Emily Wright, 2 up – Nessralla picks her player back up. That’s clear when Nessralla and Khang replay Wednesday’s match, which would have ended at the 17th but for a three-putt by Khang.
“If we had two-putted it would have been over there,” Nessralla explains. “Listen to me, we two-putted. That’s what caddie and player should be thinking – as one.”
Back home, the pair’s celebration includes something called the “Halifax High Five.” Not in Pinehurst, however. In fact, they won’t even reveal what this secret handshake of sorts entails.
“We don’t do it here, I’d be so embarrassed,” Khang said, laughing.
Nessralla is happy to be in Pinehurst for the first time this week, and it has a special meaning for her. A six-year cancer survivor herself, she also lost her sister Annie to cancer earlier this year. She wears a black onyx around her neck in Annie’s memory, and when Khang is down on herself, she gives the charm a rub for good luck.
“Cancer is horrible, I’ve gone from that to turning everything around and being here and such happy times,” Nessralla said. “Caddieing is not easy and it’s hot as heck but you know what? I’m having a ball.”