OCALA, Fla. – Ha Na Jang calls Lydia Ko a “best friend,” but she’ll be looking to keep her pal from making history Saturday at the Coates Golf Championship.
Jang will be looking to steal some headlines with a pretty spectacular story herself.
Jang, 22, is looking to win her LPGA rookie debut and become the first qualifier to win an LPGA event since Laurel Kean won the State Farm Classic 15 years ago. Ko, 17, is looking to win and become the youngest No. 1 in the history of women’s or men’s professional golf.
Of course, Jang isn’t your normal rookie. She’s No. 21 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She’s already a star back in South Korea, where she was the Korean LPGA Player of the Year and leading money winner in 2013.
“I’m a little greedy,” Jang said through an interpreter when asked about her inability to build on her second-round lead.
Jang started the third round with a four-shot lead, but she ended it trailing Ko by a shot. Jang didn’t give herself a lot of good birdie chances Friday in a round of 1-under-par 71. She saw one good birdie chance horseshoe in and out and lipped out another. She also hooked her tee shot into a hazard at the 12th hole, making just her second bogey of the week.
Still, she kept herself in the hunt and just missed a putt at the 18th that would have pulled her into a tie with Ko.
“Ha Na’s in a pretty good frame of mind,” said Dean Herden, her caddie.
Jang may not be familiar to American audiences, but she’s getting some big-time face time with fans of the women’s game this week. She was paired with Stacy Lewis in the final grouping Friday and will be paired with Ko and Na Yeon Choi in the final pairing Saturday.
“The shot-making is going to be brilliant in that group,” Herden said.
Ko, Jang and Choi are scheduled to tee off at noon ET. It won’t be the first time Jang plays with Ko. They were paired together in the final round at the Evian Championship last year. They also played four practice rounds together when the LPGA made its Asian swing last year.
“I think the fans here are going to like Ha Na,” Herden said. “She’s a people person, very friendly.”