Kang and Korda trade prom for pars
U.S. Women’s Amateur (Semifinals)
Danielle Kang, 17, and Jessica Korda, 17, will face each other in the final round of the 110th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Two 17-year-olds advanced to the final of the U.S. Women’s Amateur. There’s nothing surprising about that fact. Kimberly Kim winning at age 14 at Pumpkin Ridge way back in 2006 – now that was a shocker. But 17 is relatively old these days in the world of women’s golf.
Heck, one of the finalists, Danielle Kang, is already a college sophomore at Pepperdine. The other, Jessica Korda, plans to attend LPGA Q-School next month.
Graduation ceremonies, proms, minimum-wage summer jobs, these teenage rites of passage are traded for long stretches in hotel rooms and with host families, traveling the world to gain the experience and attention necessary to achieve at the next level. Or, in some cases, skip a level.
Kang graduated from high school on Jan. 8, 2010, so that she could begin college at Pepperdine on Jan. 11. After several years on the junior scene, she had a been-there-done-that attitude. She called the three-day transition “hard,” but had this to say about her first semester of college: “It’s like camp without singing.”
Kang’s father, K.S., works for a telecommunications company in South Korea and comes over every summer to travel with Danielle. He’s pushing the pullcart this week for his daughter, offering tips on course management, trying to keep her loose.
Both Korda and Kang have their fathers on the bag. Their mothers are at home on opposite coasts while other siblings prepare for golf tournaments of their own. It’s not a game for these families; it’s a lifestyle. Some days are fun, and some are a grind. Korda points to a break after the U.S. Women’s Open in July as a key time of transition in her mind.
“I was pretty unhappy, not only with my game,” she said, “I wasn’t having as much fun playing golf before it was so much.”
Korda put her clubs away to read books and watch TV and quickly realized two things: She was bored. And she really liked golf.
“Do you understand, like no golf?” Korda asks rhetorically with typical teenage drama.
For how long? One week.
In the mind of a teenager, seven days can feel like a lifetime. Many adults might find it absurd that taking one week off from golf is a milestone. But these aren’t ordinary teens. They’re elite athletes at the top of their games.
For Korda to succeed on the LPGA next year (if she qualifies), she’ll need that kind of dedication and adoration toward a game that can be uncommonly cruel on what often feels like a lonely road.
When Kang was asked if she had plans to turn professional, she admitted the thought had crossed her mind.
“As of right now, I’m going to college,” she said. No one would be surprised, however, if that sentiment changed after tomorrow’s 36-hole final. Players nowadays change direction as quickly as the wind. They hope to strike gold in a struggling economy with limited sponsorships and places to play.
They’re in a hurry to grow up. Prom, they’ll tell you, is so overrated.