by Beth Ann Baldry
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Aug 15, 2010) – Danielle Kang spent 35 holes with a smile on her face, despite missed putts, lost holes, a rain shower and oppressive humidity at Charlotte Country Club on Sunday. The first and only tears fell after a 5-footer at the 17th hole to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur over Jessica Korda, 2 and 1.
Kang arguably was the underdog when the pair of 17-year-olds stepped to the tee Sunday morning. Already this week Korda had taken down such big names as Stephanie Kono, Candace Schepperle and Lisa McCloskey, and it’s no secret she hopes to attend LPGA Q-School this fall.
Neither hesitated in pouring in the birdies to start the morning, however, with Kang going 3 under in the first four holes to get an immediate 1-up edge. She would build it to 2 up through the next 14 holes, making a clutch putt or dropping a bomb for birdie each time Korda would cut into the lead.
“People kept saying my putter’s not working all these days, and I didn’t let that bother me because I know I’m a good putter,” said Kang, who slowed down her routine on the greens during the final match at the suggestion of her putting coach, Tony Kewal.
Danielle Kang defeated Jessica Korda 2 & 1 in the 36-hole final at Charlotte (N.C) Country Club to win the 2010 Women's Amateur Championship.
Kang didn’t let up as the afternoon wore on and the crowd swelled before a brief afternoon rain shower. She made birdie to halve the fourth after Korda hit the 448-yard par 5 in two and missed her 10-footer for eagle. Kang gave one back at the next hole with bogey, but a Korda bogey at No. 6 sent Kang back to 2 up.
Korda eventually got on a run with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 9 and 10, but Kang’s game never dropped off. It was a different experience from Korda’s early-week matches, when her birdies went unanswered from her opponents.
“I was making birdies but I was frustrated with her making birdies because I wasn’t used to that,” Korda said.
Korda also lacked the magic on the greens that she had displayed throughout the week. As the afternoon wore on, her lip-outs became more vicious and frequent as birdies became more and more crucial. After fighting back to a 1-up lead at the 12th, her first lead of the day, Korda suffered near-misses at Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 17. A few minutes after the match – and after some consoling from a USGA official in the players’ locker room – Korda realized that just two more made putts could have spelled a vastly different fate for her.
“It’s definitely going to help boost my confidence maybe in a week,” Korda said of her trip to the final.
She plans to re-watch the TV coverage from Sunday’s final round in hopes of spotting the difference in her putting stroke that caused so many missed putts.
For Kang, the U.S. Women’s Amateur title is proof that the new, calm mindset she displayed all week in Charlotte will pay large dividends in the future. Her carefree attitude comes courtesy of a week at Oakmont Country Club last month for the U.S. Women’s Open. Kang came away realizing that letting her emotions get the best of her on the golf course doesn’t make for good golf.
“After Oakmont and the U.S. (Girls’) Junior I was like, ‘I’m actually not that bad a player,’ ” Kang said. “I’m not that bad. I don’t know why I keep telling myself I’m bad.”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that Kang had acarefree and relaxed caddie in father K.S. He remained nearly expressionless through the week, offering sound and uplifting advice when things looked grim.
“I know that she the best, I think – I’m a father, you know,” K.S. simply said after the match.
When Kang approached the 5-footer for the win at the 17th, K.S. provided extra motivation to end the day there. Kang has been wanting her own TV, and K.S. agreed to get her one if she could make birdie.
Kang not only will need to clear shelf space for the TV, but also for the Robert Cox Trophy. It represents another in a string of summer honors for Kang, which includes medalist at the U.S. Girls’ Junior and a runner-up finish at the Canadian Women’s Amateur.
Winning the title in Charlotte spelled relief for Kang, but not surprise.
“I came all the way here, and every tournament you can’t really say you’re surprised that you won,” Kang said. “It’s like I’ve worked hard to get here.”
Kang and Korda took vastly different roads to the Women’s Amateur final, and for now at least, they’ll continue their separate journeys. Kang graduated high school early to play for Pepperdine, earning second-team All-American honors and an individual medal in her first semester. She’ll return for another season
with major status among the college ranks thanks to this week’s win.
As for Korda, who spent a large amount of her childhood in the Czech Republic and out of the spotlight, she’s not too sure when school resumes (that call will be made Monday) or when LPGA Q-School starts, but knows she wants to be there for both.
Where team golf is concerned, Korda got plenty of experience this year representing the United States at the Curtis Cup and the Copa de las Americas. Both Kang and Korda expressed a desire to be part of the three-woman team that will represent the United States at the World Amateur Team Championship in October.
It’s hard to argue they haven’t earned it this week in Charlotte.