Golf

Danielle Kang dedicates first Major title to late father

American Kang dedicates first Major title to her family, especially her late father

On the outside of her right hand is a one-word tattoo. It is "Dad" in Korean.

Danielle Kang's one regret after her maiden LPGA Tour triumph at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship yesterday morning (Singapore time) was that her father was not alive to see her become a Major winner.

Kang, a two-time US women's amateur champion, won her first title as a professional golfer after 144 starts with a one-shot victory over Canadian Brooke Henderson at Olympia Fields Country Club.

K.S. Kang was unable to witness his daughter's victory, however, having died of cancer in late 2013 near the end of her second year on the LPGA Tour.

"If I could wish anything, I would wish that my dad saw me win," said an emotional Kang, who shot a final-round three-under 68.

"It's been a really difficult road for me the past four or five years, and it's life, though.

"You have to pick yourself up and keep working hard at it and then believe in what you're doing and not letting yourself down."

Just like her previous two US amateur triumphs in 2010 and 2011, the 24-year-old American could feel her dad's presence in the final round yesterday morning.

"When I was playing the US Amateur, my dad was right next to me," said Kang, who had never finished higher than 14th in a Major.

"If I could wish anything, I would wish that my dad saw me win."American golfer Danielle Kang on her late father K.S. Kang

"You have that utter confidence that no one can get in your way and, today, I felt that. All week, I felt it.

"I don't know if he was next to me, I'm pretty sure he was, because on the last putt, I just remembered my first US Amateur winning putt. For some reason, I thought about it while I was putting that.

"I felt his presence."

The California-born golfer broke clear with four consecutive birdies from the 11th hole as her putter caught fire, but fell back into a tie with Henderson after bogeying the par-three 17th, where she found a bunker with her tee shot.

But Kang held her nerve at the par-five 18th, hitting two near-perfect shots to the heart of the green before two-putting to cap her victory with a closing birdie.

She finished on 13-under 271, while Henderson, whose eagle putt at the last stopped on the lip of the cup, had to settle for second on 12 under after a closing five-under 66.

"I took some extra time trying to read and get (the pace) right," said Henderson, whose ball hit a couple of bumps en route to the hole and lost speed quicker than it might have with a smooth roll.

"Unfortunately, I missed it by an inch, but it was a great day.

"There was a little more pressure coming into this week knowing that I won last year.

"I really wanted to do it again and I gave myself the best opportunity to do that."

South Korean Chella Choi, who started the final round tied with Kang, carded a 71 to finish third on 10 under.

Kang became just the second American winner of the Women's PGA Championship in 16 years.

She played the final round yesterday morning after a restless night, excitement and nerves breaking up sleep.

"It felt like I was a kid waiting for Christmas morning," she said.

"I just told myself it was my week, and it was my day."

Kang also had her brother Alex Kang to thank for her victory.

She took pictures of the potential trouble spots on the course earlier this week and sent them off for expert analysis to her brother, a Web.com Tour member who has played Olympia Fields.

So she played with her father on her hand, and her brother's voice in her head. And when she won, a hug from her mother Grace Lee on the 18th green.

"I am who I am because of them," she said. "I wouldn't be here without them, and I genuinely mean that." - WIRE SERVICES

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