Last year, Kang started the final round three strokes behind leader Karine Icher. By the time she approached the 15th tee box, Kang was one-stroke behind playing partner Meena Lee and the lead. Kang pulled a 9-iron out of her bag and sank the first ace of her LPGA Tour career on the par-3, 125-yard hole. The momentum carried Kang for the remainder of the round, as she held off Lee and 2004 champion Annika Sorenstam by two stokes to become the season's third Rolex First-Time Winner, seventh in tournament history.
With nearly one-third of this year in the books, Kang has earned $72,922 by playing in all 11 official Tour events to-date, but a win remains elusive as her season-best finish is a tie for ninth at the LPGA Takefuji Classic. As players descend on Corning, N.Y., for the 28th LPGA Corning Classic, they will start preparing for the second of a seven-tournament stretch in the northeast and mid-Atlantic United States, which began last week at the Sybase Classic presented by Lincoln Mercury in New Rochelle, N.Y.
Should Kang successfully defend her title, she would be just the second to do so this year, joining Sorenstam's repeat at the MasterCard Classic honoring Alejo Peralta in March. A Kang repeat, or a win by any South Korean for that matter, would also be the fifth for the South Koreans this season.
The field is set, though, and any one of the 144 players would be happy with a win, not to mention duplicating the dramatic finish of 2005.
A win at the $1.2 million LPGA Corning Classic for 2006 Tour rookie Morgan Pressel would give her the chance to treat herself to some graduation and 18th-birthday gifts with the $180,000 winner's check.
Pressel graduated from St. Andrews High School in Boca Raton, Fla., last Saturday and will celebrate her 18th birthday tomorrow, May 23. This season, her best finish has been a tie for fifth at the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay.
This week's tournament will be a second debut of sorts for Pressel, as it will be the first tournament this season where she will not have to follow-up her round with a round of book reports and make-up assignments.
But Pressel is just one of 16 members of what many consider the LPGA's most talented rookie class in recent history hoping to win the LPGA Corning Classic. Already this season, rookies have four runner-up finishes. Of those four, three belong to Seon-Hwa Lee, who is determined the next time she finds herself in the leader group on Sunday, it will end with a win. Last week, rookie Kyeong Bae tied for second, just two strokes behind eventual champion Lorena Ochoa.