If you weren’t up at 2 in the morning (Eastern Time) to see Ha Na Jang win the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, you missed an electrifying show.
It wasn’t just the way Jang played coming home.
It was the way she played to the crowd.
It was the way she performed, because this woman delivered about as high voltage a performance as you’ll see in golf, turning fairways into catwalk runways and greens into stages.
If Beyonce played golf, she would play the way Jang does.
Nobody has more fun winning than Jang, and that was great to see again after the troubles she endured last year, where controversy and criticism seemed to zap the spirit and even the health of this high-energy, South Korean star.
Jang’s 10,000-watt smile was back in play in Australia.
So were her animated celebrations.
This woman is making an art form of the fist pump, from circular overheads to underhands.
While there was no repeat of last year’s Samurai lasso dance in Ocala, or the Beyonce “Single Ladies” dance in Singapore, there was what looked like some kind of kangaroo hop for Aussie fans before the trophy presentation.
When Jang wins, the trophy presentation is absolutely part of the show. Nobody has more fun with the trophy. She kissed the bowl that looks like a queen’s crown, and then she balanced it on her head for photographers.
“My target is five wins this year,” Jang said.
Yes, her confidence is high again, too.
Jang, 24, won three LPGA titles last year, more than anyone outside Ariya Jutanugarn (5) and Lydia Ko (4), but her early momentum was stifled with that controversial mishap at the Singapore airport in March, before the HSBC Women’s Champions. That’s where Jang’s father dropped a heavy travel bag down an escalator, striking In Gee Chun in the lower back, knocking Chun out of the event and a couple other events with injuries to her lumbar muscles, sacroiliac joint and pelvis.
The incident set off a social media firestorm in South Korea that affected both of these young stars.
What happened in that Singapore airport was a shame, because Jang and Chun are both special players, dynamic presences with a star quality that is connecting them to fans beyond their loyal Korean bases.
We saw that Sunday in Australia, where “The Jang Gang,” a group of Aussie men, led a large gallery’s boisterous support.
Four shots down stepping to the 13th tee in the final round at Royal Adelaide, Jang caught fire. She made birdie there, birdie at the 14th, eagle at the 17th and birdie at the 18th.
Jang won by three shots in a dizzying seven-shot swing over the final six holes.
Chun has her own charismatic style. We saw her electric smile all week at Evian last year, where she won her second major championship in a tour de force performance. She won with a 21-under total, the lowest score in relation to par in the history of major championship golf.
Chun has her own colorfully nicknamed tournament following, too. They are “The Flying Dumbos.” Chun is nicknamed “Dumbo,” a moniker she says her coach gave her for her “natural curiosity,” like the Disney baby elephant.
It was good to see these two players paired together at the KPMG Women’s PGA last June, when they appeared to put behind them any lingering difficulties.
“To be honest, it wasn’t easy to face Ha Na again at the tournament site,” Chun told GolfChannel.com back then. “But it was nice to see her back, at the same time. Things can happen. Things got screwed up, but like I said before, what’s done is done. We are cool now.”
Jang’s flamboyant style didn’t fly well in South Korea after the Singapore incident. There was a severe backlash against her from fans who thought her celebrations in Singapore were disrespectful, given the controversy swirling at the time. So, Jang cut out her dances and toned down her fist pump celebrations.
“Now every day, crying in my room,” Jang said back at the Founders Cup in Phoenix, just a couple weeks removed from the incident.
In late spring, Jang left the LPGA for a while and returned to South Korea, where she was hospitalized for dizziness, vomiting and insomnia. She said she was diagnosed with anemia, but there were emotional issues, too.
Jang and Chun are both committed to play next week at the Honda LPGA Thailand, and from there they are both scheduled to fly off to the HSBC Women’s Champions, where their return to Singapore is bound to rekindle memories of last year’s airport incident.
It’s great for golf that these two stars head there back on track, back on their upwardly mobile paths, because they are both entertaining to watch and they’re both great for the game.