Family's support helps Khang succeed

By Randall MellJanuary 30, 2016, 3:07 am

Megan Khang’s father marveled over his daughter’s ability to make the most of opportunities growing up because even as a promising junior she understood the hardship that limited the chances her family could give her.

Lee Khang is marveling again this weekend with his 18-year-old daughter atop the leaderboard halfway through her first start as an LPGA rookie.

Megan’s 5-under-par 68 in Friday’s heavy winds left her tied for the lead with Charley Hull and Haru Nomura at 8-under overall at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island.

Lee is the only teacher his daughter has ever known, and he is her caddie, too. He would be toting her bag again this week in the Bahamas, but his aunt died and there was a funeral back in Massachusetts, where the Khangs make their home. So Lee stayed home. Truth be told, Lee said, he wasn’t penciled in to fly to the Bahamas anyway. The family couldn’t afford it.

Lee, 48, is a freelance golf instructor who works mostly public ranges and courses in Rockland, Mass. Megan’s mother, Nou, is a kindergarten teacher. They’re both Hmong and came to the United States from Laos separately when they were children. They met sometime after high school and married.

Growing up, Megan didn’t play the AJGA circuit except for a few select events. The family didn’t have the money for all the travel, but she made the most of USGA, PGA and regional qualifiers. She was the eighth-ranked amateur in the world last month when she turned pro a week before LPGA Q-School. She was the low amateur at the U.S. Women’s Open last summer.

“We’re a family of three,” Megan told GolfChannel.com. “I’m an only child. It’s the three of us against the world. That’s kind of how I look at it.”

Lee’s business card reads: “Traveling Golf Professional – I’ll come to you.” He is teaching mostly juniors this winter at Bosse’s Sports Complex, an indoor facility in Sudbury, Mass. Lee didn’t pick up a golf club until he was 32, when his brother invited him to hit balls on a range. He instantly fell in the love with the game.

“I came home and told my wife I was going to quit playing other sports,” Lee told GolfChannnel.com. “I told her, this game looks easy, but it’s really hard, but I’m going to learn how to play if it kills me.”

Lee says he has never had a single golf lesson. He learned at the beginning by devouring Golf Digest, always flipping to the back pages first.

“I’d go right to the `How to break 90’ and `How to break 80' sections,’” Lee said. “I watched a lot of lessons on YouTube, too. There are a lot of different ways to play the game. I learned a lot by trial and error.”

After Megan was born, Nou told Lee he couldn’t be playing so much golf anymore. He had a little girl he needed to help raise. Lee solved that problem. He started taking Megan to the course with him when she was 5. He’s the only coach she has ever had.

“Everything she’s learned, I’ve learned,” Lee said.

Lee’s proudest moment as a teacher was what happened when his daughter qualified for a spot in the Winn Grip Junior Cup Challenge in Las Vegas when Megan was 16. Butch Harmon coached Kang’s East squad, Natalie Gulbis the West. As part of the event, Megan got to visit Harmon’s school at Rio Secco Golf Club. She even got a 10-minute lesson from Harmon.

“Butch asked her who taught her how to swing the club,” Lee said. “She said, `My dad.’ Butch said, `Don’t ever change your swing.’”

Lee loved that.

Lee also loves seeing Megan get off to a fast start in the Bahamas. So does Megan’s mother.

“Nou is online constantly, checking scores,” Lee said. “It’s kind of hard on her not being there. She gets so nervous.”

Lee and Nou aren’t surprised Megan’s off to such a good start. Megan has always had a way of taking advantage of opportunities.

“We didn’t have the resources a lot of golf families had, and even as a child Megan knew that,” Lee said. “I think understanding the situation, that traveling to big tournaments was difficult, she worked harder to take advantage of opportunities when she got them. She worked hard to do her best.”

Megan doesn’t have any endorsement deals, yet. A family friend’s working as her manager. A good start will go a long way to financing the rest of Megan’s trips and her father’s return to the bag as caddie. He’s planning to tote the bag at the Coates Golf Championship next week. With a really big week in the Bahamas, Megan’s mom might not have to check scores online in future events. She might make a few trips, too.

“We had a good chat with Megan last night,” Lee said. “Megan knows to be patient, not to force things, to let the game come to her.”

It’s a formula that’s working great so far for the Khangs.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''