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.