With Lucy Li the youngest player, at 11 (11!) to qualify for a U.S. Women’s Open, and 17-year-old Lydia Ko hoping to become the youngest golfer ever to win an Open, one can understand why Megan Khang gets no love from most of the media gathered at Pinehurst for the women’s turn on No. 2.
For the 16-year-old Massachusetts native, Thursday marks her second start in the women’s national championship and Khang, one of many young hopefuls teeing it up starting Thursday, will know soon if she can do better than the missed cut she carded two years ago at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis.
“I was definitely really nervous the first year I played, because there were really only two other people that I knew, and it was my first time playing in a major with all the LPGA pros,” Khang told the Boston Globe’s Michael Whitmer on Sunday as Martin Kaymer was putting the finishing touches on his wire-to-wire domination of the field and the course.
“Coming into this week, I’m feeling, I wouldn’t say a lot better, but I’m settling in better than I was two years ago, and I know more people, so that’s more calming,” Khang said. “I’m just soaking it all in.”
Khang, along with a slew of many of the best players in the world, paid close attention to how the guys did last week because for the first time in Open history, the women will contest their tournament on the course the men struggled on last week. What struck Khang was Kaymer’s use of his flat stick “from everywhere.
“He’d be five-10 yards off the green and he’d be pulling out the putter,” she told Whitmer. “It shows I’ll need the putter a lot this week.”
A regular on the junior and amateur circuits, Khang won last year’s international Faldo Series Grand Final. The Rockland High School student, who will be a senior in the fall, punched her ticket to Pinehurst in a sectional qualifying event at Thorney Lea Golf Club in Brockton. She also played Pinehurst some four years ago, though Donald Ross’ track has undergone a complete restoration since then.
“I think the key this week is hitting it in the fairway, and when you don’t, just trying to get out of there with no worse than bogey,” said Khang, who will have to finish among the top 60 and ties to make the cut. “Also, the short game; if you miss these greens, you have to really focus on your short game.”