In only three starts as an LPGA rookie, Megan Khang has established herself a player to watch.
The 18-year-old from Rockland, Mass., is in Carlsbad, Calif., this week for the LPGA’s Kia Classic and is virtually assured a spot in next week’s ANA Inspiration, the tour’s first major of the year.
Less than a year out of high school, Khang earned her LPGA card by advancing through all three stages of Q-School last fall. She finished T11 in the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic before missing the cut at the Coates Golf Championship. Then she took more than a month off while the LPGA swung through Australia and Asia, for the simple reason that traveling to those far-flung locales wasn’t in her budget.
She came back last week at the JTBC Founders Cup in Phoenix and certainly showed no signs of rust. Paired with Michelle Wie and Cheyenne Woods, the diminutive teen could have been intimidated but instead shot 68-69 to advance to the weekend, while Wie and Woods both missed the cut.
Khang got into contention with a Saturday 66 and backed it up with another 66 on Sunday to finish T4, eight strokes behind Sei Young Kim, who won in a runaway after a final-round 62.
The finish earned Khang $54,379, the biggest check of her nascent career. She moved to 26th on the LPGA money list and second in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year standings behind In Gee Chun, the 21-year-old Korean who’s the reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion (and qualifies as a rookie despite having made eight LPGA starts in 2015).
Although Khang’s expected appearance at the ANA Inspiration will be her first major start as a pro, she will draw on experience gleaned from competing in three U.S. Women’s Opens as an amateur, the first coming at Blackwolf Run in 2012 when she was 14. Last year, she finished as the low amateur at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club.
Moreover, Khang is familiar with ANA Inspiration host site Mission Hills Country Club, having competed on the Dinah Shore Tournament course at the Rancho Mirage, Calif., venue during the first stage of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament last August, where she finished second.
Khang’s emergence is especially noteworthy given her backstory as the daughter of Laotian immigrants who came to Massachusetts in the mid-1970s to escape persecution following the Vietnam War. Her father, Lee, was an auto mechanic who took up golf in 2000 and taught himself to be a low-handicap player; he introduced Megan when she was 5 and has been her only coach.
Before the season, a club pro who knows the Khangs well told me that he thought Megan would do well on the LPGA right out of the gate. It’s clear the man knew of what he spoke.