'Monday qualifier' Jang grabs LPGA 36-hole lead


OCALA, Fla. – There are “Se Ri’s Kids.”

That’s what they call the generation of South Korean players inspired by Pak’s breakthrough in the United States in the late '90s.

There are “Inbee’s Kids.”

That’s the current generation of South Koreans being inspired by Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park, who made history winning the first three women’s majors of the 2013 season.

And, someday, South Korea’s Ha Na Jang says she hopes there will be “Ha Na’s Kids,” players inspired by her.

Jang, 22, could make a pretty spectacular start on that dream here as she tries to win the Coates Golf Championship in her LPGA rookie debut.

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With a 7-under-par 65 Thursday, Jang seized the second-round lead in the LPGA season opener at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club. It was the round of the tournament, moving Jang to 12 under overall, good for a four-shot lead on Stacy Lewis (70).

“I hope I can play well these last two days so people can get to know my name and who I am,” Jang said through an interpreter.

Jang is looking to become the first “Monday qualifier” to win an LPGA event since Laurel Kean won the State Farm Classic in 2000.

Jang isn’t your normal rookie. She is already a star in South Korea. She earned her LPGA membership last month tying for sixth at LPGA Q-School, but she didn’t have a high enough priority ranking to make this week’s field. So Jang  earned her way into the field claiming one of two spots in the “Monday qualifier,” which was actually played on Saturday this week.

Jang was the Korean LPGA Player of the Year in 2013 and leading money winner.

Her caddie, Dean Herden, says she’s leading a strong new wave of South Korean talent coming to the United States. He began caddying for her last year, before she tied for third at the Evian Championship, the final major of the women’s season.

Herden is very high on Jang’s potential.

“By the end of 2016, she’s going to be No. 1 in the world,” Herden said. “Her ball striking is unbelievable. Her iron play reminds me a lot of Jiyai Shin’s.”

Herden, by the way, was Shin’s caddie when Shin reigned as the Rolex world No. 1 in 2010. 

Jang led LPGA Q-School last month going into the final round, but she didn’t get the attention she might have received if she had won medalist honors. She struggled that final day, closing with an 80. She still easily got her tour card.