St. Louis, MO (August 4, 2009) – Danielle Kang, 16, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., rolled in a 30-foot par putt at the 18th hole Tuesday to secure stroke-play medalist honors by one shot at the 109th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship being conducted at Old Warson Country Club.
Kang’s putt capped off a 3-under-par round of 68 for a 36-hole total of 4-under 138 on the 6,422-yard, par-71 layout. The Westlake High senior-to-be edged Marina Alex, 19, of Wayne, N.J., and 16-year-old Jessica Korda of Bradenton, Fla., both of whom finished at 3-under 139.
Korda’s 4-under-par 67 tied for the lowest round of the championship with 17-year-old Sun Gyoung Park of Vail, Ariz., who finished fourth at 140. Park’s 67 also came on Tuesday.
First-round leader Amy Anderson, 17, of Oxbow, N.D., had a 75 and finished at 1-over 143. The newly minted U.S. Girls’ Junior champion was bidding to become just the third player in USGA history to earn medalist honors in the Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur in the same year. The incoming North Dakota State freshman still has a chance to become the first player to win both titles in the same year.
The match-play cut came at 9-over 151, with six golfers playing off for the final match-play spot. Amelia Lewis, 18, of Jacksonville, Fla., was the playoff survivor.
Sixty-four contestants begin match play on Wednesday, starting at 9:30 a.m. CDT. Match play continues the rest of the week until Sunday’s 36-hole final.
Other notables to make match play included 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kimberly Kim, 17, of Hilo, Hawaii, 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Alexis Thompson, 14, of Coral Springs, Fla., 2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion Jennifer Song, 19, of Ann Arbor, Mich., and 2006 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Jenny Shin, 16, of Torrance, Calif., who had a hole-in-one at the par-3 13th hole.
While the day began with threatening, overcast skies, the projected thunderstorms stayed north of the area and never affected play. By the afternoon, the sun came out and the winds died down.
It showed in the scoring, as five of the six sub-par rounds posted in the afternoon were in the 60s. Only three players in the morning wave broke par and none shot in the 60s.
Kang, competing in her second Women’s Amateur and sixth USGA championship, registered seven birdies and four bogeys. The round included three consecutive birdies from No. 12.
“I’m excited,” said Kang about being medalist. “My dad was like, ‘Let’s get medalist today.’ I wanted to accomplish something for making match play.”
Kang credited her father, K.S., for the success on the greens. Two weeks ago at the Girls’ Junior, where parents are forbidden to caddie by USGA rules, she struggled and lost in the second round.
“He’s an amazing green reader,” said Kang, who has verbally committed to attend Pepperdine University in the fall of 2010. “If he reads my putts, all my lines are perfect.”
Korda also has her father, Petr, back on her bag this week and says she feels much more comfortable. The 1998 Australian Open tennis champion caddied for his daughter at last month’s U.S. Women’s Open at Saucon Valley Country Club and she not only made the cut, but shot a final-round 69.
After a 1-over 72 on Monday, Korda’s putting got back on track with six birdies against two bogeys. But for the second consecutive USGA event, she finished second in qualifying. She also was a shot off medalist honors at the Girls’ Junior two weeks ago at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., where she suffered a third-round, 19-hole defeat to eventual runner-up Kim.
“Again, déjà vu,” said Korda. “Whatever, it was a good round. It was pretty much solid golf today.”
Alex, a sophomore-to-be at Vanderbilt University, just turned 19 on Sunday and was hoping to give herself a belated birthday present by earning medalist honors. But a missed 6-footer for par at No. 18 left Alex a shot behind Kang. It was one of the few putts Alex missed the entire round.
“I’ve really rolled my rock well this week,” said Alex.
She opened the round by rolling in a 40-foot birdie putt and finished with four more. She nearly holed out her approach shot on the par-4 11th, saved par with a 25-footer at No. 12 and knocked her tee shot to 8 feet for another birdie at the par-3 13th. That was her last birdie of the day.
Alex said playing in last month’s U.S. Women’s Open was a major confidence boost, even though she failed to make the cut.
“It was the hardest test of golf that I have ever had to go through,” said Alex. “It’s not that everything seems easier, it’s just a little less pressure and a little less stress. And knowing that I am good enough to get myself to the Open, it fills you with confidence by just what goes on there.”
The U.S. Women’s Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.