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Controversy didn't diminish Lang's dream win

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BEDMINSTER, N.J. – When Brittany Lang came home after winning the U.S. Women’s Open last year, she set the trophy on the breakfast bar in the middle of her kitchen.

The Harton S. Semple Trophy stayed there for pretty much the last year.

Lang’s husband, Kevin Spann, offered to build her a trophy case for it in their McKinney, Texas, home.

“Nah,” Lang told him. “I like it right here.”

Lang liked seeing it first thing in the morning with breakfast. She liked seeing her name engraved on it with Patty Berg, Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Mickey Wright, Betsy Rawls, Annika Sorenstam and so many greats of the game.

She liked the way family and friends got to enjoy it as much as she did.

“People would laugh,” Lang said. “They would ask me, ‘Why don’t you put it in a safe place?’ But I liked seeing it every time I was home.”

The trophy reminded Lang of the power of believing.

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That’s the story she didn’t fully get to tell after she won, because so many of the questions in the aftermath of her victory at CordeValle last year were about the championship’s controversial ending. So many questions were about Anna Nordqvist getting penalized in their playoff after a zoomed-in, slow-motion replay showed she grazed a few grains of sand taking back a 5-iron in a bunker.

The story Lang didn’t fully get to tell is how she knew she was going to win a U.S. Women’s Open someday. Absolutely and unshakably knew it.

“I’m a big believer in the things you want to happen, you should say them aloud,” Lang said. “So, I said it a lot to family. I said, ‘I just know I’m going to win a U.S. Women’s Open.’”

Lang says she knew it the day she walked away from her very first U.S. Women’s Open at Cherry Hills, where she tied for second as a 19-year-old amateur when Birdie Kim won.

The nature of the championship just felt like it suited her.

“That’s because Brittany is a grinder,” said Spann, her husband. “She does well on hard courses, where par is a good score. When she’s in tough situations, she locks in.”

The tougher Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster plays this week, the better Lang’s chances.

“I play with more of a conservative strategy,” Lang said. “I don’t hit it at every pin, which isn’t always great in day-to-day golf, where girls are making a lot of birdies. But I hit it long and straight off the tee. I have a nice, high iron game. I’m good at hitting it in fairways and getting on greens, and my putting has come so far the last few years.”

Lang, 31, believes she is just coming into herself as a player. She became the first player from Duke University to win an LPGA event when she claimed the Manulife Financial in 2012, and she’s hopeful she will add to her two LPGA titles.

It says something about Lang’s priorities that she doesn’t wish she got more acclaim for winning last year.

In her world, she got all she needed and ever wanted.

Luke, her older brother by four years, is her caddie. He has been on her bag from the day she turned pro. They have a special bond, as a team, and it made her victory that much more meaningful.

“I don’t think what happened at CordeValle took away from my win one bit,” Lang said. “My family and friends know I’m the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open champion. If the way it ended is what people wanted to talk about, I could absolutely care less.

“It’s unfortunate what happened to Anna. She’s a good friend, and she’s a great player, but the cool thing about winning there for me was that my family was all there to see it. My husband was there, my mom and dad were there, my brother was there. That almost never happens, with all of us together like that at an event.”

When Lang got home after winning last year, the TPC Craig Ranch threw her a party. That’s the golf club she and Kevin belong to in McKinney. The next night, she celebrated at another party for her with her friends.

That’s all the acclaim she wanted.

“The U.S. Women’s Open is the one tournament Brittany wanted to win her entire life,” Kevin said. “She’s very patriotic. She loves her country. She loves the USGA. So watching her win her national open, I got emotional, because I knew how big a deal it was to her.”

That trophy in the kitchen reminded the whole family of that.